Howard expresses the emotions that fuel his drive for success and acclaim, which I touched on earlier in my post “The Muse that is Melancholy“. As that post notes, however, that doesn’t mean one will be happy. And Lord knows Howard ain’t a happy man.
Ah, now I have proof that my saturnine nature is something to celebrate. Well, if I felt like celebrating…no matter, a recent books essay in the FT (here) highlights three books that tout the less-sunny side of life:
There are two good reasons to appreciate emotions other than happiness. The first is that… [b]y making happiness holy, we dismiss the overwhelming majority of human experience as nothing more than an also-ran. The second is that dissatisfaction is the driver of human endeavour – and not just in the luxury goods industry.
I had already read a few reviews of Eric Wilson’s Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, which has moved onto my must read list. Wilson’s view isn’t very comfortable for most Americans, what with the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (the FT reviewer wrongly calls it the “right to happiness”). I think I’ll look at the Baggini book as well (Complaint, book here, blog here, “Complaint Test” here), for he looks at grumbling that is unproductive or unsatisfying:
Complaining may be crucial to our humanity, but misguided gripes – about things that either cannot or should not be changed – just get us down all the more. [The most egregious are people who] move about in search of the best schools and jobs, then complain at the loss of traditional community; travel to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru only to complain about all the tourists; and expect other cultures to be authentic while patronising the local Starbucks “like a libertine who wants his innumerable conquests to be chaste virgins”.