Friday, December 23, 2011

To Be Happy

Posted on a chalkboard by the coffee pots at the old J. D. One-Stop in Northwood:

When I was five years old, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down "happy."  They said I didn't understand the assignment.  I told them they didn't understand life.

-- John Lennon       

It's not particularly deep philosophy but it does address a truth.  I mentioned in another posting that I don't know for sure which teacher, if any, ever motivated me to read books, or enjoy the ever-so articulate writers and orators.  Helen Thies certainly loved her symbolism, as someone pointed out, and for the love of me I wasn't  very good at finding the many interpretations that she uncovered, and this Lennon quote is pretty straight-forward if philosophical. 

One of the fellows I worked for in the 80's got all fired up about the symbolism in "Fatal Attraction," that spooky movie starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close.  He expounded with enthusiasm on the water that showed up at appropriate moments, as it did when Glenn's character boiled the family pet rabbit.  A previous posting about Marilyn Monroe and her movie "Niagara" followed the same women/water symbolism, as I discovered when researching the movie a little bit.  Makes sense.  What more powerful water than Niagara?  More powerful woman than Monroe?  I don't think you even have to use your imagination . . .

The great writer and thinker Christopher Hitchens died recently.  He wasn't necessarily a symbolism guy, but he was a powerfully logical writer, and was cited by Ross Douthat, a conservative writer for the New York Times for his anguish over the existence of God, and his singular ability to debate an issue by citing circumstances and realities that few others may have considered.  It was as if Hitchens had a computer-like mind that enabled a constant "search" of "all things relevant to this topic" and then parsed the story to reflect it.

George Will is another author whose articulation is just fun to listen to, whether you agree with him or not.  Bill Buckley was awesome.  Lincoln was THE MAN of few more eloquent words.  Roosevelt.  Kennedy.  I wish I had paid more attention during English class and perhaps I would have loved them even more, symbolism or not, and somewhere along the way learned to be a better wordsmith.

Lennon, he of Beatlemania, may have just cut to the chase with the above quote, and I would confess to being one of those who would have thought he had not understood the assignment, being committed instead to the stated goal the student should achieve.  In 1963 Beatle music was becoming so popular, and though I had heard and loved the music they were playing, I had no clue who they were until I happened to be standing in Vic's Pizza in Mason City one night, waiting for a table or a person, I don't know which, glanced down at the jukebox near the front door that was playing one of their songs so I could find out exactly who was making that music, and realized that those four mop-headed characters were the source of the harmony that I, like everyone else, was becoming attached to.  

Continuing in my cultural heritage, narrow-mindedness, and inability to change with the world, I lacked the appreciation of the gradual transition of the Beatles to their adventures of living, the White Album, Paul's shoe-less walk across Abbey Road (symbolic or not), the hair that got longer and longer.  Some English teachers got with the program and used "Eleanor Rigby", "Yesterday", and various other Beatle titles as a teaching tool, and at least one basketball coach that I know would use their music to prime himself on game day, turning up the volume to a high level, then listening in a room by himself before his team took the court that night.

All while quietly, secretively attempting "to be happy."  And here's where we are today, in a state of retirement, reflecting on the past.

The path through this posting may not have been linear, but no matter - this ain't the New York Times.  But it is worthy to end where we started, with a quote from Lennon:  Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.  And we'll leave it up to you to figure out the meaning and symbolism behind the whole posting.  Then send your thoughts to  My brain is near empty.


  1. OMG Lee I think I used all of my brain cells getting through this post. I was exhausted, but I loved the symbolisms. Your brain has got to be going 24/7 to come up with this stuff or you are just not getting out and playing enough golf!!

  2. Dad was with me when I saw the quote on the chalkboard. I read it to him and he just giggled, which I thought was a sign of affirmation.

    Regarding the golf - we now have about an inch of snow on the ground so it would be tough. However, it's supposed to warm up to 36 degrees today so it should be gone soon.

    Merry Christmas!


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