Last night, I was pondering out loud what to write today. Betsy suggested I write something light-hearted, pointing out my recent posts had been somewhat heavy.
"When you write, you tend to spread your sad around," she said.
I've blogged off and on the last few years. I've long ago recognized that while my Facebook updates tend to be light-hearted, and clever (hopefully), and happy, my blog posts tend to be more contemplative, and yes, sad.
The same goes for my live storytelling as well. Some of my tales are light, happy fare, but most gravitate towards the darker parts of my life.
I spend a substantial time scanning my news feed on Facebook most days. There are plenty of happy posts and pictures to go around, but if I had to put a name to the overall trend I sense, it would be "Making the best of a bad situation." Even in the clever and witty updates, there's an underlying sense of dread, anger and sadness.
There are posts about the national and world scene, about injustices carried out by the better off, murders at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect us, flailing legislation from old white men threatened by the inevitable equality of women and minorities.
On the more intimate level, there are passive-aggressive missives against the bit players in our lives; the guy on the train who wouldn't surrender his seat to the eight-month pregnant woman, or the BMW that almost mowed us down in the intersection. Posts about the bosses and co-workers who use their stations to belittle us and make us feel less than.
And, of course, posts suggesting hurt brought on by the ones closest to us. Posts about lost and unrequited love.
All the while we post profile pictures of us looking our best, cover photos of the exciting places we've been or the incredible things we're doing, and Instagram photos of the delicious food we're eating.
Late in the movie Cool Hand Luke, Luke (Paul Newman) escapes from prison. Months later, he sends his buddy on the chain gang a photograph of him on the outside. He's wearing a black tux, the tie undone, drink in hand, surrounded by beautiful women in cocktail dresses.
"Living the good life," or something like that, the short note attached says.
When Luke is recaptured, the first thing his buddies ask him about is that photo. When they won't shut up about it, he confesses: The photograph was a phony. The outside had been a couple of horrible bosses, a crummy life. But he spent a month's pay on having that picture staged so he could fool the guys into thinking his life on the outside was otherwise.
Sometimes, I think that's the best metaphor possible for how we use social media.
In 1996, the sketch group The Kids in the Hall released a movie called Brain Candy, which is either brilliant or claw-your-eyes-out horrible, depending on your sensibilities. The premise of the movie is a scientist who creates a pill that, immediately upon swallowing, locates your happiest memory, re-creates the elation you felt in that moment, and locks it in permanently so that's how you always feel.
The best sequence in the movie may be its opening, which introduces a number of characters who reflect on the infinite sadness of life. Some memorable quotes I can remember form that sequence without have to look it up on YouTube.
"Life is short, life is shit, and soon it will be over."
"(translated from German) The nipples of Mother Hope have run dry."
Most succinct: "Fuck Happy."
The guy who says this last one later gets on the drug and releases a joyous song called Happiness Pie.
Of course, there wind up being disastrous side effects to the drug, and you can guess how the story goes.
The moral: There is no such thing as permanent happiness.
[Insert a Tyler Durden quote of your own choice here.]
As a rule, artists tend to be the saddest, most contemplative people I know. On the flip side of that, they also seem to be the people who are able to express the good, and happiness and joy in life most beautifully.
Things that make me happy:
Going to a job every day that's a little off the beaten path, not sitting at a small desk in a cubicle.
The fellowship of funny, talented bad asses, both in-person and online.
Living in a city where my cultural and entertainment choices are virtually unlimited.
Coming home at the end of the day to a beautiful, thoughtful fiancé waiting for me with a smile and a kiss.
Falling asleep with her, and rolling over in the morning to see her lying next to me.
We're all doing our best, but underneath, there's some sadness and anger in all of us.
I can't start to trust a person until I see a little of their sadness show through.