Those Hollywood moments of happiness, which we are all meant to crave – triumph, being proposed to, winning a race – aren’t ever so simple and happy in real life. Happiness is always more complicated, and always coincides with other feelings of concern, stress, doubt. Happiness for me has not been those moments, if they have existed at all, but rather it has been the soft dust of hope, the underlying calm of learning and finally understanding. I didn’t feel ecstatic when the book was finally out, or on eating nice food, or even when my partner finally arrived in Latin America. The real happiness I’ve felt has been on seeing that humans could respect animals and live peacefully along side them at Galapagos, during the warmth of a hug given while he was totally asleep, on writing a beautiful sentence that encapsulates something wonderful, on having a conversation with a good friend that made my brain stir and reminded me that at the base of it all, human beings are wonderful, generous, and inspiring.
Under the wreckage of capitalism – its billions homeless or barely shelted, our daily strain to stay afloat physically and emotionally – happiness is reduced to the absence of suffering, to achieving what should be basic human rights, like getting a job, having a home, or being treated with respect. In this world of marketed people and marketed emotions and bottled water and privately owned medicine, we mistake satisfaction for happiness. We barely touch beauty.
Novel: The Butterfly Prison