Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Donald Barthelme

Okay, so some random guy misses his lady-friend and so inconveniences everyone in Manhattan with…a balloon? Alright, I’m not one to be grounded always in reality and love a good prank as much as anyone (short-sheeting the bed is a personal favorite), but this is kind of silly. I did enjoy, however, the idea of some monstrous intrusion into our otherwise steady lives that makes us all think about the world for a moment, and that seemed to be the point, if there was one. As the author says, “we have learned not to insist on meanings.”
What this story reminded me of was a report I came across on the radio a few years ago about the lottery. In the story, some group of statisticians had come up with some method of measuring happiness (I know, seems ridiculous, but bear with me). They found a group of lottery winners and measured their happiness shortly after they won and then at intervals over the next several years. They also measured the happiness of common folk like you and me. What they found was that lottery winners, after one year, were generally no happier than the average person walking down the street. They went further with the study, though, and this was the interesting part (to me, at least): they went into a number of offices and put a dime on the copy machine. Whenever someone used the copy machine, they interviewed the person afterwards and measured their happiness. Turned out that the people who picked up the dime were just about as happy as the lottery winners. I know this experiment is just about as ridiculous as some heart-sick dope inflating a giant balloon over New York City, but it’s the point that matters. Happiness isn’t just there for some people and missing for others, the people that are happy in life are the ones out there looking for the dimes in their daily lives. I think that Special Agent Dale Cooper, FBI, said it the best:
“Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”

(I’ll give you extra credit if you can tell me what this quote is from)

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