Audrey Tautou, biopic, orphanage, 20th-century social mores, "The blossoming of her ambition," brutal candor, and PG-13.
WIN WIN WIN! I don't care what you say. It's gonna be good.
Confession: although I'm pretty darn sure they don't really care, I always love to flaunt the fact that I read the New York Times to my dad and my cuz Michael Brown, my two favorite hardcore conservatives. (Once in a while they humor me with a mock round of consternation). I read "Satan's rag" in the name of being well-rounded, informed, a little closer to "edgy," and last but not least: because I genuinely regard this paper as unmatched in terms of intellectual depth, robust questioning, and journalistic talent. (Dad wants me to add: and liberal eco-communism)
Back in May, for example, NYTimesOnline published an article by philosopher Simon Critchley entitled Happy Like God (full text HERE) that may or may not have changed my life! I have wanted to discuss its ideas ever since I first read it; I probably think about this article and its contents weekly still, four months later.
Aristotle says that "Happiness is the solitary life of contemplation." How many of you balk at that statement? I certainly did. Happy=solitary??? No way man. Most of my happiest memories entail a lot of familiar smiling faces! (and sunshine, and fast engines, and face cards*), but wait just a second. Mr. Critchley puts up a good fight. He describes the sensation of "reverie," as experienced by the philosopher Rousseau. Floating on a little rowboat in the middle of a lake in his homeland of Switzerland, Rousseau found perfect inner contentment just studying and delighting in the moments as they passed, thinking of nothing else. This is a more lasting and fulfilling state of mind, apparently. As I've thought more and more about this peculiar idea of mini, mental, and super-charged happiness, I've realized that I have had a few of these "reveries." They're tiny flashes, single seconds sometimes, where I don't do anything else, just grin. Unusually crystal clear in my memory, often for the oddest reasons, they DO have the peculiar power to warm me up just as much if not more than all the combined memories of, say, the hours playing Flip Over Tens at the CCC Cabin (one of my favorite activities growing up. :)
Most recent example: this weekend. Saturday, after volunteering a long 5 hours at the Hirshhorn at a children's art workshop (on a busted ankle, no less), I finished cleaning up the ArtLab, then walked-slash-limped around the sculpture garden and out onto a bench on the National Mall, where they had some "Festival of the Book" going on.
And I thought to myself, "This is home." A grin slowly spread across my face. My home. Not collapse-on-a-mattress-kick-off-your-shoes home, but perfectly-content-state-of-mind home. In that moment, I could have stayed there forever; by myself, with other people, I didn't care. I was happy! Gordon Bunshaft's impressive cylinder of a museum is at once imposing, interesting, familiar, and enfolding to me. I have friends and colleagues at that museum that challenge and esteem me. It is where I cut my art history teeth, and it's where I confirmed the fact that contemporary and modern art is my arena, my power alley. Earlier that morning I had enjoyed walking back through those doors, being greeted by name by one of my favorite security guards, seeing the new Nick Cave sound suit (at right), and helping kids see colors and shapes and themselves through artists' eyes. All these elements combined and welled up into that moment of sheer bliss on the Mall! I'm thinking (and hoping) that that memory will be good enough to sustain me through the long months of kid-herding at the NBM yet to come.
For those that are interested, it is in fact an actual suit. Nick Cave creates these fantastic... well, you don't even call them costumes, they're artworks! Google for more of them, they're crazy! When the artist has a show, he and other performers walk gingerly around IN them. This piece (sans human occupant) is one of the Hirshhorn's newer purchases, and it is such a delightful pastiche of kitsch, found objects, postcolonial disdain for high art, and glittering fantasticalness!! I almost made like a two year old and dashed up on its pedestal to touch it when I first saw it.
My point is, there are all types of happy. This philosopher in the NY Times wanted to hierachicize them, using the absence of any other impinging thoughts as the marker of the highest happiness. I'm still not sure I can agree with him on that, but it's made for great food for thought these last couple of months. I'm more inclined to take note now when I feel at ease, or devoid of worry, or totally glowing, and to call myself happy therein.
And life is good today. That's pretty much the end of this speech. Have a great week!
*Other loves: lakes, mountains, shirtless boys, possibility of injury, thumping beats, skating, cheering, getting cool points for being one of the few girls that will go do the crazy stunts, the Danvillans.............. I know the following video totally defies the above thesis on alone-happy-times, but I don't care. It is everything I love and miss about Utah and Santa B and SUMMER and I have watched it more times than I want to admit this week. Wish I was there. Enjoy! (My buddy Dan, the one in the yellow shorts who does a gainer with his bike, is the video artist. Genius. I may or may not have started humming this beat under my breath in sacrament meeting today when the speaker mentioned things that make us happy):