The title of this post is froman essay by Sparrow, a poet. I love this essay because I think it captures so well how important small, private moments of joy are to our ability to be human. In my experience, searching for big happiness brings more disappointment than pleasure — those searches blind me to the small, beautiful things around me, like the flowers of muscari that are almost the same blue as the chicory Sparrow writes about in his essay (“I began to feel that this blue-petaled being was a guardian angel of hitchhikers—a flower at once extremely common and supernally lovely.”). Searches for Big Happiness blind me to the people around me, too, and then I start to feel alienated from my own life.
Small things don’t alienate anybody. Large things, like the entrances to tall buildings, are often designed to be imposing, so that you feel insignificant and powerless as you enter.
My unhappiest times are the ones when I feel unable to connect with what is most immediate — my self, my home, my partner. My happiest times are when I am not looking for connection or happiness or anything but am relaxedand just seeing what’s near.
Recently I ordered tea and over-easy eggs in a cafe by a train station, and as I sat there eating, watching people and the departing train, I became so happy to be doing what I was doing. I wanted what I had, and I was content.
Last Sunday my partner and I woke up and decided to go for a walk. While we were in bed we looked out the window and saw a sunny sky. But once we were up and ready to go out, the sky was cloudy and drizzle was falling. My partner wanted to go to a particular road he likes, and I wanted to go to a particular path I like. I decided I would split off from him, but as we walked and the drizzle became a downpour, something shifted in me and I decided to go to his road with him. I had never been there, so I got to see something new. While we were walking home the sun came out and all the rain began to evaporate from our clothes and the wet petals around us.
Sometimes while I am moving my body, lifting a leg to take a step or reaching for a glass of water, I happen to notice the movement and for a moment I feel joy. It’s like “Heaven is a Place on Earth” has just started to play and I’m driving home with someone I love, though it’s just me and I’m imagining the music.