Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called ‘All the things that could go wrong’. Marianne Williamson.
Flowers make me happy! I don’t think that’s shallow, is it? Their beauty in the face of struggle (weather, unfriendly bugs, inept gardeners etc) They keep going, no matter what. Being happy.
My Gran loved tulips. She was the original positive psychologist- though she would have laughed if I called her that! “Don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you”, she would say, dispensing pearls of positive wisdom along with the home baked macaroons, folding me into her floury embrace. Despite her influence I trounced off into my teenage years with a pretty negative mindset which I took with me into adulthood, expecting the worst, superstitiously saluting magpies and touching wood, and if I sensed the emotion named ‘happiness’ I’d be so fearful that it would be followed by the opposite emotion, that I’d shut it right down.
After chatting with a friend about the need for ‘happiness ambassadors’ – people who are proudly and unashamedly Happy People, I got to thinking about why we do this? Why are we scared of happiness, when it’s generally accepted – in our culture anyway, and certainly if the contents of my bookshelves are anything to go by, that happiness is the ultimate goal, and what we all strive for (and with the emphasis on strive, shudder…)
There goes the little voice inside, telling us that we either don’t deserve to feel happy; that someone else is suffering, so we need to play it down a bit; that something awful will happen if I allow myself to experience this sensation of happiness; that if I’m seen to be happy it makes me look shallow, self centred, a little dull or simple… I’ve heard all these messages from my little voice inside at one time or another.
Many arty types fear that suffering is the only true path to creativity. Edward Munch (creator of the infamous painting ‘The Scream’) said ‘I want to keep my sufferings- they are part of my art.’ In Islamic cultures sad people are seen as serious and connected to God. In Iran there is a saying ‘laughing loudly wakes up sadness’. (What would Gran have had to say about that!) And in China ‘Extreme happiness begets tragedy.’ and ‘Happiness and a glass vessel are most easily shattered’. The Tao te Ching says ‘Misery! Happiness to be found by its side! Happiness! Misery lurks beneath it!’ I don’t think this is negativity as such – Taoists believe that things tend to revert to their opposite, that there is a cycle to everything. Life will have its highs and lows.
I’m probably happier now that I’ve ever been in my adult life. There, I said it without touching wood or fear that I’m invoking the wrath of the Gods of Sod’s Law. I would prefer to think that happiness begets happiness; that if I make up my mind to be happy, I will be. So I’ve re-written my story. I am now officially, a Happy Person.
These images are the result of me trying something a bit different and the uncomfortableness that goes with that. The tulips’ beauty speaks for itself, so it’ a challenge to find a way of photographing them that doesn’t take any of that away. I’m trying to invoke beginner’s mind and not wait until I’m the world’s best floral photographer before I post. ‘Cos that might take a week or two….