Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Happiness is the Ultimate Non-Zero Sum: Sunday Musings…10/3/2021

1 Anorak. Greek for geek or nerd. You thought it was just a pullover too, didn’t you…

2 Ryder Cup. I always miss my Dad the most when stuff like the Ryder Cup is being played. An event that brings back memories of a special time I got to spend with him doing something he loved. This particular one was also shared with my brother and one of my brothers-in-law when we spent a weekend together at Oak Hill in the fall of 1990.

I want to talk to him every day. Hear his voice. See his smile. All the more so on a day like Ryder Cup Sunday when we would have watched this year’s matches together and reminisced. It’s days like this that make it hard.

I miss my Dad.

3 Happiness. “We should allow others to expand and contract without taking it personally.” –Kasey Musgrave

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The three pillars upon which our country was built. It bears repeating that we are only guaranteed the right to PURSUE happiness; we are not guaranteed the happiness itself. The great conservative writer George F. Will posits that the pursuit of happiness actually IS happiness, though I doubt he’d get much uptake on that from the masses.

At the moment I am sitting in an airport with the love of my life, on the way home from visiting our daughter and son-in-law. I am quite happy. Belly filled with something called a “womelette” (an omelet poured into a waffle iron), couple of newspapers nearby, TSA successfully transited. We checked in on our new “toehold” here in the low-country, a small condo about 20 minutes from Megan and Ryan. Nothing special, just a place to call our own when the time comes that we can travel for more than a week at a time. Seeing it for the first time made us happy. Taking the 10 minute walk to the beach (and dreaming about an electric beach caddy) made us happy.

Our happiness does nothing to detract from anybody else’s pursuit of happiness.

In my travels, and those of my oldest friends and acquaintances, I have come across scores of people who are truly happy. Capable of feeling and giving in to joy. It’s such a special thing to see, and even better to in some way feel a part of that joy, wherever it may be from and whatever may have brought it to life. It’s out there, you know. Sometimes it’s subtle, as gentle and quiet as the proverbial footstep of a butterfly landing on a leaf. Other times it is raucous and riotous and simply blasts through your space like a runaway train.

We took in an R&B performance like that last night.

Sadly, there are others out there who resent the joy in others. Whether they are themselves happy or not so much, the happiness of another feels to them like losing. It’s more than envy in these unhappy people. For these folks it’s as if there is a finite about of happiness and joy in the world; no matter how much of either they may have at any one time they cannot see another’s joy without feeling as if it is somehow draining the reservoir from which they may drink some time in the future. Weird, huh? They sometimes seem more fixated on the blessings of others than on their own, so much so that their own joy slowly seeps away.

Happiness and joy are not limited resources. Quite the contrary. My happiness, my joy is not predicated on your unhappiness or your sorrow, and vice versa. Heavens, if one person’s happiness could come only from another’s despair we’d have long ago slipped into a rather dismal anarchy. No, joy is the ultimate non-zero sum measure. More than that, joy is an exponential multiplier. When you find or see joy in someone else and that vision makes you happy, the amount of happy you get is a full order of magnitude greater than it otherwise would be. If that joy and happiness should come to someone who has lately had little of either, well, that’s just that much better.

Life is pretty good around Casa Blanco right now; Beth and I are returning refreshed and renewed from our too quick trip. Beneath our masks (after all, we’re in an airport) we are smiling ear-to-ear. As much as I’d like to think that means it will always be thus, that’s not how life works. We will “expand and contract”, too. Regardless, if I should stumble upon you in the midst of something joyous, you can be sure that no matter what happens to be going on in my little world I’m surely not going to resent you or your joy. Quite the opposite.

Whether the skies be cloudy or eggshell blue, a glimpse of the sun always warms everyone there to see it.

I’ll see you next week…

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