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Happiness (203 posts)
By now, most of us have heard of Outsider artists—artists who create works without any formal art instruction or ties to museums or galleries. Recently we discovered Jerry Gretzinger, who maybe an Outsider, but who can articulate his vision so that anybody can see—feel—the importance of his work. In his Vimeo clip, Jerry describes the map he has been making in his basement since childhood, a map of an imaginary world filled with cities, farms, roads, woodlands, and just about every feature the regular word possesses.
True, not everybody can spend their days working on painting, and if we did, we might create something whose progress is not solely dependent on the shuffle of a deck of cards. Still, there's so much to be inspired by Jerry's dedication (note: the map now has 2,000 panels) and ideas. What struck us most, however, was the void, the mysterious white splotch that threatens to block out his map.
"There is one defense against the creep of void," Jerry says. "There is a...wall, and part of it has been built around...the biggest city on the map." This is complicated. If we think of the void as a threat to the world of Jerry imagination, something that will wipe his map out, then drawing a big stone wall may be an excellent idea in order to protect his creation and his creativity. But what if the void is something else? Inside the white void, Jerry also says, "is a bud of gray...it's a whole new world for me." So perhaps by building a wall, he's limiting his own progress, by denying the end of his old map and the start of a new one.
Our takeaway: We all have a void of some kind or another—a problem, a fear, a worst-case scenario, something that seems to threaten what we've spent so long creating. Maybe the first step to being less afraid of it is understanding that, in certain cases, destruction may be just want we need to move on.
When it comes to gardening, Classie Parker is the fairy grandmother who we all long for—except that she doesn't turn pumpkins into coaches or mice into footmen. Instead she does something much more powerful and true-to-life. This spunky, funny, vegetable grower visits different communities in New York, "teaching people how to put the love in their food" by instructing them in the forgotten art of canning. Along the way, she inspires all who listen to her about passing along the lessons of our "mommas..grandmommas...and great-grandmommas..." as you'll see in this video that Etsy put together.
The takeaway: Whether or not you grow peppers and cucumbers in your backyard, whether or not you can those veggies with garlic or don't can them with garlic or don't can them at all, it's worth remembering that what we eat and how we share it is, as Classie says, "what brings people together."
Raising four kids—including one set of twins—is challenging enough. But when we heard about the Manning's family struggles once their premie 3-pound son developed a bacterial infection that resulted in a stroke and seizures, two million dollars in medical bills, and a host of other seemingly insurmountable family problems, from lost jobs to marital issues, we were astounded not just by how these folks survived, but how and why they thrived.
As Alice Manning speaks, there is so much to be inspired by, including how she used her creativity to reflect on her experiences and how her Los Angeles community rallied around her family. But note what Manning says at the very end: "The biggest lesson for me is that it's not about the future. You know, it's not about 'I'm going to be so happy when this is over'...because we experienced everything else being taken away, and when everything else is taken away, I have to see that there is only one thing left...and that's the option to love, the option to see my circumstances as an opportunity."
Thank you, Alice, for reminding us once again: Love is not just a feeling. It's also a choice.
After watching the terrifying path of the hurricane up the East coast for the past four days, some of our all too human creations on television now seem a touch overwrought in comparison—for example, last night's MTV Awards.
Which is why this unexpectedly simply performance by Adele singing Someone Like You profiled on PopCrush—executed without gender-bending disguises, smoke bombs, sequins, flying trapeze wires, four french hens, three turtle doves, or even any mis-timed lip synching—seemed so poignant and moving. Even for those of us who no longer watch the MTV Awards or, okay, let's admit it, date back to an ancient time when MTV actually showed music videos....
Army boys put on their own musical
A love letter just for you
My mother and I can’t have a conversation without her telling me the end of the movie I am about to see or the book I am about to read. She doesn’t mean to. But it will just come out, as in: “Honey, I just couldn't help it, I sobbed when the horse broke his leg and they had to put him down...right on the racetrack, by the finish line."
I am not the kind of person who hangs up on her mother. But I sometimes pretend the stove is on fire and drop the phone and run off screaming. Now, I can just stay on the line; knowing the ending actually improves a person’s enjoyment of a film or book. A recent study by researchers from the University of California at San Diego, Reuters reported, gave reader stories by John Updike, Roald Dahl, and Agatha Christie, only with two versions—the original, and another with a "spoiling paragraph" inserted in the text.
The verdict: readers preferred the amended stories. My kids of course could have explain this to me—without words even. One look at their bewitched, glazed expressions as they watched Dinosaur Train, the underwater episode, for the millionth time proves the whole entire theory. (Just to increase your enjoyment: the little fish without any names do get eaten by the big friendly dinosaurs).
From now on, I will enjoy my mother's plot references, as long as my mother does not find out that I am enjoying them, at which point either I will be compelled to admit or she will be compelled to point out that—like our long hot endless childhoods visits to Civil War battlefields—this is officially for my own good.
At last: a proved route to wisdom.
The back-from-vacation ah-ha moment!
It's hard enough to keep a sense of humor on regular Monday, when say, you're late for work, your computer freezes, your dog needs some kind of inner ear surgery which isn't covered by pet insurance (does pet insurance cover anything?), and..drumroll...you reach over in the bathroom to wash your hands and get soaked by the puddle that someone left on the counter, making it appear as if you had an accident in your already rumpled pants.
But imagine you're in Afghanistan—now at month 106, the longest war in U.S. history. The members of 7 Commando battery, 29 Commando found a way to laugh at their day by creating their own version of Glee's Don't Stop Believing, which includes singing into radio microphones, singing while doing chin-ups, and singing while in the shower Not only is the show lovable, but it comes with added bonus that almost every one of these young, goofy yet incredibly buff guys has failed to put on a shirt.
Today's rule for life: If people thousands of miles from home, fighting a war, can laugh about their conditions (note the outhouse in the video), so can we.
Read More5 things happy people do
The Happiness Test
Imagine a world where four courageous yet completely ornery older people—Granny, Frank the Fixer, Madge the Merciless, and Emile the Organizer—take on the evils of today's society, battling nefarious financial planners and knocking out health insurance company representatives. This is the inspired, much-needed idea behind Coot Avengers, a comic book now being funded on Kickstarter. (Technically, the project has already reached its $2,500 goal, but we advise donating anyway—just for the free-with-donation gift comic entitled Everything I Know About Wall Street, I Learned From My Cat.)
The geniuses behind the mature, laugh-lined superheroes are Kay Wood (age 60), Michael Silverstein (age 70) and Doris Lane Grey (age 72) who got together one afternoon for pastries, only to begin discussing getting older and dealing with various bureaucratic agencies. Silverstein in particular was in the middle of a nasty battle with an insurance agent over who was going to pay for a colonoscopy. "People our age are in a daily fight with government agencies, city hall, and even private employers who don't want to hire anybody over 50," says Wood.
Soon the three had pooled their artistic resources to try something new for all of them—a comic, populated with characters who are "feisty, wise, and when circumstances demand, intimidating."
"The project has been so enlightening," says Silverstein, "to be able to have a medium that allow you to focus attention on these issues—not beat people over the head with them—but present them in a really poignant, fun way." His particular comic alter-ego, he claims, is Frank the Fixer: "a tall, slender, gawky guy who doesn't like to take a lot of guff from people."
The fact that originators of the Coot Avengers are seemingly as feisty and wise are their characters is not that much of a surprise, but one tidbit on their website did wow us: Some 44 million Baby Boomers will be eligible for Social Security between now and 2029. With those kind of numbers, you have to wonder if that particular group needs a superhero—given that the last time they stood up for something, it was for the end of the Vietnam War.
Has this every happened to you? You're walking down the street, eating a muffin—which, like all muffins, is really a cupcake with added bran—while simultaneously talking on the cellphone:
You: I'll meet you [chew, chew] at six at the restaurant.
Your husband: Honey, I told you before [wind blows, the muffin paper crinkles in your hand] the dinner is at [boom-boom of woofers from a passing car] eight o' [dog barks, somebody else's cell phone rings playing "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry) clock.
You: Right! [fire engine wails by] Got it!
Your husband: Great.
You: Six o'clock! [Child cries over skinned knee, disturbed man screams at the corner about the radio signals in his back molars] See you there! Don't be late!
Everybody seems to talk about how fast the world moves now. But rarely has anyone pointed out how loud is it—and how this changes us as listeners. Do we really hear each other anymore? More importantly, do we hear the small subtle noises that create such texture in a day—the clink of ice in a glass, the velvet whirl of the fan?
Last month celebrated sound expert Julian Treasure gave a TED talk on how to become a better listener. One of his exercises is to take a few minutes and savor the "hidden choir" in the everyday—for example a clothes dryer that thumps to rhythm of a waltz worth dancing to. Discover these sound secrets—and four others—that help you tune into the sound of your own life.
My mother has a saying: It's easy to be nice...(long, potent beat)...when you're feeling nice. The same holds true for forgiveness. It’s to forgive the easy, inconsequential things—being stood up on a date or cut in front of in line at the grocery store. But what about the big wrenching losses, those life-changing wrongs that you know you must forgive—not just for the person who let you down, but for yourself? (Bitterness, by the way, has been recently proven to reduce lifespan.)
Earlier this month, hearing about Farid Singh (from India) receiving an email from Qais Hussain (from Pakistan), we were astonished. In the email, as the website Good originally reported, Hussain claimed to have shot down Singh's father's plane—killing him—back in 1965 during the Indo-Pakistani War. Worse, Singh's father was an innocent civilian. Hussain sent his apologies and condolences, writing that "the unfortunate loss of precious lives, no matter how it happens, hurts each human and I am no exception. I feel sorry for you, your family, and the other seven families who lost their dearest ones."
Even more astonishing, was Singh's letter back...
Everyone struggles with the big questions: how to discover what you were really meant to do (not what your family, circumstance or fear directed you to do), how to forgive and be forgiven, how to live your best life, no matter how your life changes.
Today, Oprah announced her return to television this fall, with a very personal project: Oprah's Lifeclass. Each episode will focus on a specific lesson that matters the most to her, using clips from The Oprah Show’s 25-year history. She'll explain what she was really thinking back then--and what she knows now.
The first one million people to sign up for the class will receive a limited-edition journal and can enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to Atlanta to meet Oprah in person.