(Read more about my trip to Kenya at Like Eating Crab, Still a Sunrise?, Replacing me with … and Happy Peace Day, Chinese Person in Tent Number 59)
I’ve spent the last couple of years downsizing, and trying on the idea that a simpler life can be a happier life for me. I’ve turned to finding small pleasures and treasures to be thankful for, and to not basing my actions on always wanting more. This flies in the face of much of my upbringing and culture, so even with this conscious effort I am still far from ascetic. But in spite of the ways that this change in outlook have challenged me, I have to say it has been a joyful journey.
But is it always bad to want more? How about more love? More kindness? More simple decency? More popcorn?
I’m in the process of looking at the last song referred to in each of my books. y1 is largely a book about finding joy, and the last song is “More” by Usher Raymond IV, an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actor. This has got me me thinking about the idea of how “more” relates to happiness, or if it does at all.
Over the past few months I’ve also been writing about a survey of world happiness and my fascination with the fact that six attributes appear to determine how happy a large group of people is, on the average. Groups that are basically healthy, wealthy enough, have social connections, are free to make their own choices, live in a fair society and are surrounded by those who generally behave kindly are — no surprise — happier than those who live in societies that lack one or more of these attributes. Individual mileage does vary; we all know those who can manage misery in the best of circumstances and others who smile through the worst of them.
So what about more? In another post I talked about how money only adds joy up to a certain point. After basic needs and some wants are met, more cash has little to no effect on a person’s happiness, no matter how much they think that it will. One can argue about having too many social connections, or too much individual freedom, I suppose. One can even argue that a society can be too kind. But can you be too healthy? Have a society that is too fair? Is there always a point where enough is enough? The science fiction writer in me is having no trouble at all imaging a world where any one of these “happiness builders” is taken too far.
But sometimes, we do need more. I’m going to argue that we don’t need more fast food chains, but we could do with more locally grown produce. We don’t need more years added to our lives, but we do need our later years to be more healthy and happy. More fairness and kindness would be wonderful; we’re a long way from overdoing either in our society.
y1 is the only novel that I ended with a song. After all the adventures of the book have concluded and before the epilogue starts, the foursome of main characters gather for one last walk on the beach …. over flaming coals. Yes, that is something this group would do to celebrate.
After an uneventful week and a half at sea, they reached Toby’s island a little after dawn and happily stretched their legs with a long walk on the beach. Toby had decided to keep the place, but he thought it wise to scale back the island’s processes so he did not have to visit so often. Zane, Afi, and Joy spent the day helping him dismantle the hydroponic gardening apparatus and securing the house, and its energy and water gathering capabilities, to better exist without a caretaker for longer periods of time.
As the afternoon wound down, they prepared for a feast out on the sand. The coals glistened while the fish were cleaned and cooked. Wine was poured. A salad was made. Amid stories and jokes, they ate the last of the food.
Then Afi turned on his favorite new RedOne Jimmy Joker remix of Usher’s recent dance floor hit “More.” As the pulsating sounds began to capture the group, Afi gave them a questioning look.
“Like the man suggests, is now the time to bring fire to our dance floor?” he asked.
“Why the hell not?”
A stretch of clouds in the west provided a flame like show of color while Afi arranged the embers carefully into a small orange and grey rectangle in the sand. Then one by one, each member of Miss Demeanor’s crew stood up, improvised a jolly bow to the others, and calmly, yet purposefully, walked over the glowing coals.
For each of the songs I refer to, I seek out a live performance to link to in the electronic version of my novels. This amateur video of “More” shot in Rotterdam in 2011 manages decent audio quality along with a nice mix of close ups of, crowd enthusiasm, and panning out to capture the dancing and gymnastics on stage. Great fun. Enjoy it, and think of the times when we all need more.
(For more posts on the subject of what makes us happy see If you want to be happy move to a cold country?, Happiness fascinates me, None of us are normal if we’re lucky, Four Reasons I Love It When “Love Wins”, Some Kind of Kindness, and The fairest of them all?)
Reason number one: Love makes us happy, and happiness is wonderful.
Several times now I’ve posted about a report on which countries have the happiest people. I’m intrigued that six attributes account for most of this variation, and I summed them up as health, wealth, freedom, love, fairness and kindness. I’ve already written about the first three and today I’m thinking about love.
Now, the people doing this survey were not asking questions about romantic love, wonderful as is it. They used a broader definition, by asking something more like “do you have people in your life that you care about and can depend on?” This careful wording included family members and close friends along with intimate partners, and as far as I’m concerned it covered every type of love inclined to bring one happiness. (Unrequited love for someone who does not know you exist doesn’t exactly bring a lot of smiles. A spirited discussion could be had as to whether it is love at all, but that is outside the scope of this post.) Suffice to say, if you have people, or a person, you care about and who care enough about you back that you feel you can count on them, then you have love. Lucky you.
2. “Love Wins” has become associated with the LGBTQ community’s struggles for marriage equality and other rights. I’m a heterosexual woman with a 34-year traditional marriage, and an avid supporter of equality in every sense for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Zane, the main character in y1, is gay, and I did my best to present his love affair with Afi as a beautiful thing to be cheered on by anyone with a heart. In the real world, friends, relatives and co-workers of mine are LGBTQ, and every time “Love Wins” it makes me smile too. Love is funny that way. It likes to see more love.
3. Love wins every time that hate does not. I’m also an avid supported of the fine work that is done by the SPCL (Southern Poverty Law Center) even though donating to them means that I get a lot of letters from them asking me for more money. It’s okay. I glance through them all and give when I can. Recently I got one such letter that moved me more than usual. It discussed the nine people killed a year ago in the white supremacist attack at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, and noted that “Hate won’t win” were the brave words Alana Simmons spoke to her grandfather’s killer in Charleston.
Yes,“Hate won’t win” are brave words coming from someone who has been grievously wronged, and the words brought a tear to my eye. I know that love wins every time that hate does not.
4. The last reason has to do with music. I’m fixing up the music pages on each of my blogs, and today I was expanding my post about David Guetta and Estelle’s One Love. As the lyrics to One Love say …. “if we stand together than we’ll be okay.” You know, more love wins kind of stuff… and it’s what got me started on this post.
Think of how many great songs there are about love. Luckily, far more than those about fear, hate and hopelessness, although I will concede that there are a few great songs about those emotions too. Yet in the grand overview of musical topics, love wins and I’m glad.
I’d forgotten about exactly how I’d referred to the song in the book, and when I found the excerpt it made me smile.
Joy felt like she was living two lives at once. In one life, she taught Samoan third graders by day, dressed demurely in lightweight long-sleeved tops and loose colorful skirts to her ankles, and pretended to be Afi’s wife by night. Given the vast number of options open to humanity in 2010, it wasn’t a bad life. She wasn’t hungry, she wasn’t hurting, she had a friend nearby, and she was doing useful work. Life came a lot worse.
In her other life, she sailed the ocean, barefoot in a tank top and gym trunks. Her hair blew free while her body moved softly with the thunk of the boat hitting the waves and with the rhythm of her latest favorite song. For the past few weeks David Guetta and Estelle’s One Love had been about every third selection on her MP3 player, and when she wasn’t listening to it she was generally singing the song in her head while she imagined Toby’s hand on her thigh as he sat at the helm of Miss Demeanor. She would see his hint of a smile as his fingers started to rise higher up her leg and then each time he would turn to her, with his soft brown eyes asking her a question. As the song picked up tempo she felt herself smiling her answer back to him and then he always set the sails and they went below deck where the song was playing loudly and life was very, very good.
Of course, that other life existed only in her mind. But anyone who had ever been in love would know that it was the more important of her two lives.
Ah, yes, that romantic love stuff does bring us joy, even when it is just in our imagination.
I confess to having a weakness for amateur videos that make me feel like I am standing right at a concert and this simple and seldom viewed video of One Love being performed at Electric Zoo in 2011 took me in with its tag line of “right place right time last song.” I’ve had that feeling and it’s a fine one. Go ahead and sing along with the audience, and enjoy letting love win in one more way.
(For more posts on the subject of what makes us happy see If you want to be happy move to a cold country?, Happiness fascinates me, None of us are normal if we’re lucky, Some Kind of Kindness, The fairest of them all?, and When is it time for “More”?)
I suspect that I care more about accuracy in my books than I should. I write fantasy, for heaven’s sake, or at least a fantasy/science fiction hybrid, but I still like to get things right. So when my fire dancing character from Kiribati went looking for music he liked that referred to fire, I was compelled to eliminate any song that had not come out before 2011, the year in which the story y1 takes place.
And that’s a shame because that took a few good songs out of the running. To celebrate July 4th 2013, I am letting myself revisit some of the songs I wanted to use but didn’t.
Katy Perry’s Firework had the lyrics that fit, but its late 2010 release was just a month after the scene in the book where it belonged. Sigh …. so close …… Here’s the video with some great fireworks images to enjoy.
Monarchy’s The Phoenix Alive had just the sound I was looking for, but it came out in April 2010. Enjoy the official video here.
For more on my adventures including music in novels, check out my xo blog here to read the rather comical saga of how and why I how I negotiated with Sony/ ATV. Check out my z2 blog here for a little fun with bubblegum music.
The world has changed a lot since that day in late July in the early sixties when my younger sister had a Hawaiian party for her birthday. We wore hula skirts made out of pink tissue paper and piled into the station wagon to all see “South Pacific” which was making a second run at the town’s only theater.
Check out at least the beginning of this video showing a Polynesian woman trying to get an American soldier in WWII to fall in love with her daughter.
It’s over fifty years later. Yes, movies have clearly come a long way. Yes, the concept behind the scene could be considered offensive. And the message of the song itself?
Yeah. Still right on the mark. Thank you Rogers and Hammerstein
After writing about peace songs on my other blog, it occurred to me to wonder what were the best songs ever written about joy. I am rather joyful tonight. And music, being such a shared activity, is a wonderful way to communicate happiness. Luckily, a website called Songfacts provides a handy list of songs about happiness. Check it out here.
Turns out that after I went over their list and narrowed it down to my own top five, I had to add in one of my own. So, this is the list of my top six personal favorite happy songs:
Dancing in the Street – Martha & the Vandellas
Dog Days Are Over – Florence + the Machine
Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles
Joy To The World – Three Dog Night
Ode To Joy – Ludwig Van Beethoven
What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
This list is a little more eclectic than my favorite peace songs, although I hope to seek out a few more and produce a personal top ten that is a little more contemporary. I’m also very happy to “take nominations from the floor” for the best song of joy ever. Got a favorite to nominate?