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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Still Moving

June 26, 2014 | by

14322646340_be2eedbebb_k Gabriel Smith

Photo: Gabriel Smith, via Flickr.

My friend Jacob tends to be right about things. He has great taste in music; I find myself nodding my head at him whenever politics comes up; and when he laid out, like tarot cards, his hopes for this World Cup—as nearly all of my friends did before the start of the tournament—I couldn’t help but think that his predictions would work for me, too. We’ll have our parting of the ways soon enough: the Netherlands plays Mexico in a few days. The truth is, if Mexico wins, I’ll be happy for him. And I like to think that if the Netherlands wins, he’ll be happy for me, too.

Empathy like that provides balance in the world of blinding madness that sports can be. It’s a particular type of immigrant upbringing, perhaps, that gives you an agnostic indifference to overdetermined allegiances—a hope that, regardless of what happens, there’s beauty that comes from it, and an instructive joy to share and pass on.

So: I watch Bosnia for my friends Sasa and Veba, because Bosnia reminded me so much of them—committed, creative, pensive, puckish. Colombia for my aunt Claudia and her mother, Nelly. For Alejandra, and Beti and Marlon, Japan, because they always, and almost always impractically, propose to play beautifully, thinking this time they’ll get it right. Algeria for Camus’s ghost and for their players born in France, who heard the call to come back. Nigeria because Rashidi Yekini’s goal at USA ’94, Nigeria’s first ever in a World Cup, touched me in some still inchoate way—and because few things in the world are better than a happy Teju Cole. Italy—despite the neutral hardwired animosity—for how Andrea Pirlo ambles on the field, far off from everyone’s pace, seemingly alone, surrounded not by defenders but rather by his own genius. Costa Rica for sixty-five and a half years with no armed forces. Argentina for Messi—if only for Messi. Read More »

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I’d Like to Make You Smile

May 30, 2014 | by

the cherWhen the poet William Meredith passed away seven years ago today, Poetry published the third and final stanza from his “Accidents of Birth” in memoriam:

                     But it’s not this random
life only, throwing its sensual
astonishments upside down on
the bloody membranes behind my eyeballs,
not just me being here again, old
needer, looking for someone to need,
but you, up from the clay yourself,
as luck would have it, and inching
over the same little segment of earth-
ball, in the same little eon, to
meet in a room, alive in our skins,
and the whole galaxy gaping there
and the centuries whining like gnats—
you, to teach me to see it, to see
it with you, and to offer somebody
uncomprehending, impudent thanks.

It was a beautiful move on the magazine’s part, taking Meredith’s wonder and gratitude for his beloved and letting those words refer to the poet himself. When the verse is turned to epitaph, it becomes Meredith who teaches us to see; his lucky appearance in the room of our lives demands that we bow our heads, or else lift up our eyes, and stammer what thanks we are able to articulate.

I met Meredith nine months before he passed away, at Bread Loaf’s annual writers’ conference, to which he’d been invited as a special guest and at which I was a student. He’d taught on the mountainside campus in the late fifties and sixties, first in the English program and then at the conference, and now he’d returned to read for us in their Little Theater, a long, skinny rectangle of a room, the walls white, the chairs wooden, the light—admitted through banks of mullioned glass doors to either side of the audience—everywhere. It was more like a chapel than a theater.

Meredith read only a few poems, supported at the podium by his partner, Richard Harteis. For the remainder of the event, he sat in the front row, audience to a tribute whose meaning no one could have missed, while Harteis, Michael Collier, and Thomas Sayers Ellis offered up anecdotes and praise and read their own selections of Meredith’s work. Here was a dying man, a man who was loved. Read More »

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Improving Writing, Finding Happiness

May 18, 2012 | by

How do I improve my prose?

The poet and diplomat Paul Claudel once wrote, “To beware the adjective is the beginning of style.” I ought to have written “the French poet and diplomat” or “the great French poet and diplomat,” because sometimes an adjective is a helpful thing; it is easy to take such advice too much to heart. On the whole, though, Claudel is right: most prose gets better if you take out all the adjectives (and adverbs) that you can.


Hello, I have recently started reading your most wonderful publication, and I really like your recommendations based on books people have already read! Thank you for this and keep up the good work! Now, to the question about life, I put forth this question to a friend but he didn’t respond, maybe you can help? I’m happy with my life as it is today, but there is no joy of existence! I’ll try to explain this a little, for all that I have I still feel my life is incomplete! Can you help?

P.S. I have varied interests, wonderful family, friends, comforts, and all this keeps me happy, and busy, but that feeling of incompleteness always remains!

Thank you for your kind words about the Daily! Unfortunately, your question is beyond our pay grade. So I sent it to my mom. I half expected that she would tell you to meditate and drink fewer martinis, but then (as she says), she doesn't know you. Her response follows!

Your question about achieving true joy triggered an image of little Flora in Dickens’s Dombey and Sons. Never has there been such a joyful and generous creature. Then came Scrooge, after he learned that joy and generosity of spirit are inextricably linked. It seems to me that Dickens is onto something. I don't know you, so it's hard to say how you will find joy, but I would imagine that if you reached out beyond your family and friends—maybe to tutor a child who needs it, or read to someone in a nursing home, or even just give a ten-dollar bill to the next homeless guy who asks you for money—you may find that a certain amount of joy has been there all along, and you might begin to get the hang of it.

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