The Happy Life

This past Christmas, my wife gave me things I desperately needed: socks and self-help books.

One book that intrigued me was The Happy Life by Charles W. Eliot. It was published in 1905! My 5-year-old son said, “Dad, that book smells old.”

happy life book cover
Cover of The Happy Life.
Photo by M. Fleming

I was curious to see if any of Eliot’s principles applied in 2019, more than a century after he wrote the book.

Incidentally, most, if not all, of Eliot’s insights still apply today.

Here’s one of my favourite passages:

In trying to enumerate the positive satisfactions which an average man may reasonably expect to enjoy in this world, I of course take no account of those too common objects of human pursuit,—wealth, power, and fame; first, because they do not as a rule contribute to happiness; and secondly, because they are unattainable by mankind in general.

And another:

The most satisfactory thing in all this earthly life is to be able to serve our fellow beings,—first those who are bound to us by love, then the wider circle of fellow-townsmen, fellow-countrymen, or fellow-men.

Wealth, power, and fame do not bring happiness. Loving others does. True in 1905 and still true today.

Nostalgia for Richard Marx and The Importance of Syntax

Ah, it’s great to have memories of a first love.

Her name was Sonia, and she asked me to dance in an elementary school gymnasium years ago. The song? “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx.

So you can imagine the fuzzy feelings that returned when I saw Buddy Daiquiri—played by Richard Marx—in the episode ‘Poison Fire Teats Universe’ of Life in Pieces.

In the episode, Buddy sings “Right Here Waiting.”

My eyes started to tear up.

It was the perfect moment to express my love to my soulmate. But instead of turning to my wife and saying, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” I hear myself saying:

I’d rather be nowhere.

It didn’t go over too well…I wonder what Sonia’s up to these days.

Another Letter to No Frills About Another Offensive Ad

Dear No Frills,

Last week I wrote to you expressing my disappointment with one of your print advertisements that contained a derogatory term.

A Letter to No Frills About Offensive Ad

I’m disappointed that I did not receive a response.

This week, I wanted to let you know about another offensive print ad that I saw in the window of my local No Frills supermarket. The ad must be part of your “Perpetuating the Stigma Around Mental Illness” campaign.

Our Social Life Is Nuts
Advertisement in window of local supermarket

Now, I like eating nuts. Except pistachios, of course. One night when I was younger, I ate a lot of pistachios which led to an unfortunate bout of diarrhea. I haven’t eaten pistachios since. Anyway, other than pistachios, I like eating nuts. I do not, however, like seeing the word nuts being used in an offensive way.

I hope you consider pulling this advertisement. When it comes to the stigma around mental health problems, let’s try to reduce it, not preserve it.

A Letter to No Frills About Offensive Ad

Dear No Frills,

I’m happy that you sell bananas. I like bananas.

I once read that if you dress up as a banana and eat a banana, you are a cannibananabal. It’s true. I read it one day on my joke-of-the-day calendar.

Kidding aside, I’m writing to express my disappointment with some of your advertising. I saw this print ad outside of my local No Frills supermarket:

no frills bananas
Advertisement outside local supermarket.

I like the simplicity of your design. Unfortunately, however, your advertisement contributes to the stigma surrounding mental illness. The implied meaning of the word bananas in your pun is a derogatory term and hurtful to many individuals who experience mental illness.

I hope you consider pulling the offensive advertisement.

cra-zy

cra-zy
adjective
mentally deranged

At two distinct times in my life, I was non compos mentis, which in Latin means not having control of one’s mind.

Rest assured, I am totally compos mentis right now.

Yet every day I’m reminded of the agony of losing my mind. First off, people use the word crazy incorrectly. Each time, it reminds me of times of personal despair and anguish. Second, words like nuts, crackers, bananas, and loony are commonly used words that stigmatize people with mental illness. For me, they’re more reminders of the dark nights of my soul.

Work is crazy. The weather is crazy. That guy drives me nuts. That woman is bananas. C’mon, people! The English language is rich with alternate adjectives.

We need to stop using words that are harmful and make a conscious effort to refrain from using certain language.

Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and author, shares my beliefs. In her book The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius she offers a suggestion to society:

“Stop shaming those who are in the struggle, and banish words such as crazy and nuts from our speech.”

Hurtful words have become common in today’s vernacular. I wish I could change the world, but I can’t. I can, however, make thoughtful word choices in my own speech, and hey, maybe I can influence one or two blog readers to change their way of thinking.

On Depression

Last week I posted a poem I wrote on anxiety. I used it recently,  in conjunction with the following poem I wrote on depression, to initiate a discussion on mental health.

On Depression

Depression is a shadow, following me in remission.
He appears through the bathroom door, like a deranged Jack Nicholson, as I take my daily medication.
He pokes fun at me on my way to the therapist’s.
He reminds me of his power, nudging me toward the infinite abyss.

Depression is a light, guiding me in remission.
He appears on a street corner, like a transformed Jack Nicholson, as I kiss the woman I love.
He laughs with me on my way to work.
He reminds me of his power, nudging me toward the endless beauty.