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“The most beautiful expressions of happiness in literature: ‘Spirits dancing in personal ecstasy’.”

Wordsworth was taken aback by it. Anaïs Nin always found it unattainable. As stated in her 1939 journal entry:

Repeatedly, I navigate towards happiness, which is never present in my room, but always in close proximity, across from me, like the lively rooms viewed from the street, or the liveliness on the street seen from a window.

Many individuals have connected with the happiness that Nin describes as a mysterious energy and have attempted to extract its core. When he was only 16 years old, Thomas De Quincey created a list of things that brought him happiness, including poetry and glory (opium was not yet included). Nin’s contemporary, Marion Milner, conducted an intriguing experiment where she documented every instance of happiness she experienced over a period of seven years. Milner’s book, A Life of One’s Own, served as a type of written tool for her, capturing the pleasures of activities such as visiting the zoo (“Joy of long red legs and yellow ones”) and taking days off to do things for the sheer joy of it. This textual net helped her to capture and understand the elusive nature of joy.

Creating a collection of our favorite things, in the style of the von Trapp family, has its benefits. However, true joy is often found when people let go of lists and embrace their true selves. Reuniting with loved ones can be especially powerful in this regard, as seen in Robert Browning’s poem “Meeting at Night” where he describes “two hearts beating each to each,” and in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, where Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth reunite in Bath, their smiles contained and spirits dancing with private delight. As Tolstoy’s character Levin demonstrates in Anna Karenina, bliss has the ability to spread outward and transform the mundane.

He never saw again what he saw in that moment. He was deeply moved by the sight of children walking to school, pigeons gliding down to the ground from a rooftop, and freshly baked rolls being set out by an unseen hand. These elements – the rolls, pigeons, and boys – seemed almost otherworldly. All of these events occurred simultaneously: a boy ran towards a pigeon and smiled up at Levin; the pigeon flapped its wings and flew away, glimmering in the sun among snow particles in the air; and the smell of fresh bread wafted from a nearby window as rolls were being set out. Levin couldn’t contain his laughter and tears of joy.

Tolstoy believes that happiness is not always pure and white, contrary to what novelist Henry de Montherlant suggested. Many positive emotions can have shades of grey, as joy is often intertwined with sorrow or darkness. This ambiguity is evident in the ending of Edith Nesbit’s renowned novel, The Railway Children. As the father, who was wrongly imprisoned, finally returns home, the story races towards a happy ending. However, at the last moment, the perspective shifts to a distant view. The father enters the house and the door closes.

I believe we should not open the door or pursue him. In this moment, it seems as though we are not welcome there. It would be wise for us to depart swiftly and quietly. As we reach the edge of the field, surrounded by delicate blades of golden grass and wildflowers, we can steal one final glance back at the abandoned white house where we are no longer wanted.

The sensation of familial happiness seems almost overwhelming, too valuable to be seen or felt directly, instead conveyed through the gentle blades of grass and the quivering harebells. There is also a sense of generosity present. Nesbit’s storytelling allows for a larger world beyond the confines of fiction, where happy endings may not come as easily.

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Currently, happiness may seem out of reach for many individuals, like a distant entity residing in a far-off home. The holiday season can also bring feelings of being unwanted or lacking a certain type of joy. In these moments, the power of well-crafted words, which Stephen King likened to “portable magic,” can come to the rescue. This is exemplified by Kim Addonizio’s poignant sonnet from the 21st century, titled To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall.

If you ever woke in your dress at 4am ever
closed your legs to someone you loved opened
them for someone you didn’t moved against

A lonely pillow sat in the darkness on a desolate beach.

The seaweed that clings to your ankles is worth paying attention to.

Decent pay for a poor haircut retreated

The mirror that desired to harm you bled.

Unable to provide a tampon, I was forced to sit in the back seat.
if you swam across a river under rain sang
using a dildo for a microphone stayed up
to watch the moon eat the sun entire

Removed the sutures from your cardiac tissue
because why not if you think nothing &
no one can / listen I love you joy is coming

Source: theguardian.com