Happy as a verb

Happy yoda

We experience joy (n). We are joyous and joyful (adj). We act joyfully and joyously (adv). We enjoy and rejoice (v).

Our lives are marked by sadness (n). We sadly (adv) sadden (v) into sad (adj) feelings.

But to happily (adv) greet our happy (adj) world in the hopes of finding happiness (n), what do we do?

What is the action that instills happiness?

Self-help bookshelves and an internet of blogs and podcasts roll back and forth across the happy landscape, and yet for so many of us, happy is an elusive creature.

It is all well and good to say that the first step to happiness is choosing to be happy, but I have yet to see any evidence that this is the only step in the process. What comes next?


Even within our political and social doctrine, our language is vague.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

No one can rob you of your life! No one can rob you of your liberty! Good luck with the last one.

Happy is such an elusive concept that our language completely fails us by refusing to give us a verb explaining how to reach this state of Nirvana.

We grieve. We love. We anger. We frustrate.

We elate. We bore. We amuse. We abash.

We envy. We lust. We frighten.

In conferring with colleagues, it seems French and Spanish suffer the same fate.

Are humans so determined to be miserable that we are willing to idealize happiness but never expect it will happen? Talk about your negative feedback loop.

If you have yet to find happiness in your life, perhaps you can take solace in the idea that no one in human history truly expected you would.

For an end-state of such wondrous simplicity, the achievement of happiness seems monumentally difficult, which makes me wonder…

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

—Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

What if the absence of a verb for happy is not a failing of language, but rather is a clue to a failing within ourselves? Perhaps Yoda was right.

What if happiness is not a state to be achieved, but rather is a ground state waiting to be rediscovered like some great monument buried by centuries of sand?

Perhaps happy is who we are, and for whatever reasons, we as individuals and as communities have simply buried our happiness under the detritus of our lives and society’s expectations.

Perhaps the first step to achieving happiness is not deciding to be happy. Rather, it is deciding not to be everything else.

mosaic floor

Excavations at Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire, UK. Property of National Trust, used without permission. (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chedworth-roman-villa)

At the outset, this may seem like an insane challenge, but at the very least, everything else (the non-happiness stuff) is something we understand. It is something tangible in our lives. It is something we can tackle one step at a time to reveal the beautiful mosaic of happiness beneath.

I don’t know about you, but I find greater hope in

“Life, Liberty and the recovery of Happiness.”

Food that (actively) disagrees with me

The Clucking Dead

The Clucking Dead

Centuries ago, a Chinese friend of mine invited me to a family dinner where, among the many delicious items, he served chickens’ feet (I guess if he’ll serve me, he’ll serve anybody).

For the uninitiated, chickens’ feet is not a delightful nickname for some exotic construction of bamboo shoots and gelatin powder (ironically, horse’s feet), but rather the feet of chickens.

Now, I already have problems eating chicken wings…so much work for so little meat. Well, chickens’ feet are all the agony of a chicken wing sans the meat. So, I already was unimpressed.

Just doesn't add up to food

Just doesn’t add up to food

Making matters worse, however, was the chickens were just as disinclined to be eaten as I was to eat them, for as I looked down upon the bowl, I was presented with a dozen or so clawed fists, talons extended to scratch my eyes out or anything else that approached the bowl.

And when I say talons, I’m not talking the beautifully manicured hands of a lovely woman (which can inflict plenty of damage). No, I’m talking the rapier claws tested on the set of Jurassic Park that caused Spielberg to blanch and say from under his director’s chair: ”Nah, too scary for the kids.”

Physical or emotional, scars are scars

Physical or emotional, scars are scars

Despite watching my friends take great pleasure in popping the chickens’ feet into their mouths and spitting out an archaeologist’s Erector Set (can only imagine what they’d do with a fully assembled book shelf from Ikea), I made a vow that day.

I will never eat a food that is still actively defending itself! (So keep fighting the good fight, calamari and octopus.)

NOTE: This post was prompted by a post from Ned Hickson and his recent run in with rampantly randy turkeys (no relation).

Tar Pits – Los Angeles

And when I wasn’t looking at signs, one of the few touristy things I did in Los Angeles was visit the La Brea Tar Pits and the George C. Page Museum.

See also: Graffiti and Signs – Los Angeles