Wednesday, May 28, 2014

the balloon of happiness

In the adjoining room of the inn restaurant, at breakfast time, not my peak hour, the sound of gales of laughter. Uproarious. Full-on, awake hilarity. Fifteen or so folks, most if not all bedecked in American-flag-decorated shirts or blouses. They were not drunk. Stone-cold sober, by all appearances. Nothing stronger than coffee and fellowship. Talk about camaraderie! Talk about witnessing confraternity and bonhomie!

It turns out they were balloonists; crews from far and wide. Here's the thing: they were not just one team AND their balloon(s) did not even take off that morning. Too windy or something.

Did disappointment reign? Not at all. Disappointment had no seat at their breakfast table.

They were by all evidence:


Which made me wonder, right then and there: were they happy because of their comradeship? Their friendship? Their seizing of the day, the chance to be together, whether in the air or on terra firma? Or did their happiness have something to do with the nature of ballooning, skimming on air, letting go, surrendering to forces beyond your control, riding the current, soaring, rising, falling, floating, being free? Or is this happiness somehow indicative of balloonists and their personalities, their inclination as people to pursue the risks and rewards of floating on air?

They were happy.

They are happy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

'you don't understand'

I'm afraid I don't understand you (or you, either) and I dare say no one understands another. Not completely, not inside the skin, within the neural system, not entirely. Doesn't neuroscience confirm this more and more with every study? (I don't know. You tell me.) What I mean is, "what I want you to understand is," we think (enough with the italics already!) we know what another person feels and thinks. We claim we understand the other person's perspective. We feel we share a perception. We say this especially for those who are related to us by blood (parents and children and siblings and so forth). We say this about those we love. Or hate. Therapist and patient claim it. Business partners. Clients and associates. Intimate friends. Lovers. But it's silly, really, to think two infinitely different universes of experience can somehow overlap or merge or align perfectly. It's absurd to imagine that the river of solipsism can be so fordable. These are not cynical assertions. True, when we have glimpses of this "understanding" of another, they are rewarding, even exhilarating. There are such moments, or we at least perceive them as moments of shared illumination. Wonderful. I celebrate that, I salute it. And isn't this what art, music, literature, poetry, ballet, painting, sculpture, film, even sports do? Yes. But these are fleeting glimpses, glimpses we are thrilled by. We are grateful for such moments. But they are rare, in my view; if not rare, not commonplace. I suppose there is no way to prove or disprove this conclusively. But I posit that "you don't understand" is the norm among humans, except perhaps for conjoined twins. Hence, the study of semantics, semiotics, diplomacy, sociology, linguistics, psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, anthropology, et cetera ad nauseam ad infinitum. Mirabile dictu. Mirabile visu.

Friday, May 02, 2014