My magnificent, tattooed friend Tiffany lent (long-term lent, as that is how most lendings go with me) a book to me called, “How to be Happy, dammit” by Karen Salmansohn. And dammit if it isn’t bright orange — my favorite color — and decorated by a giant, stemless green sunflower floating in orange midair. How can I be unhappy in a world where there are mandarin skin colored books bejeweled with alien flora?
A quote from the book, which is a series of pictures, numbered life lessons and explanations:
“Life Lesson #3: Life is more mystery than misery.”
It’s true, right? But dammit — you’ll see this word a lot, just warning you, because dammit it feels right — we sure can dig up misery. We’re better at it than a hungry dog heading right for a just buried pile of fresh cat poop.
But how about life’s mysteries? I’m not talking Albert Hitchcock trenchcoats, black and white scenery — and why the h*ll are those freaking birds all flying at me? And why are they all the same weird grey shade?
No, I’m talking about all those juicy little mysteries that life serves up on a daily basis. Some of these little wonders don’t even require digging, but we’re prepared to ignore them because we’re just so miserable, dammit. Take this as an example:
A man walks into the cafe where I work today; he’s a normal looking fellow — middle-aged, not too nerdy, not too pudgy, doesn’t mind being sat by the door or sitting at the table I seat him at (and that’s a rarity, folks). He seems pretty normal, to sum it all up. He’s polite, in fact. However before, during and after his enjoyment of a Denver omelet sans green pepper with wheat toast and a small orange juice, he deems it necessary to wipe boogers under the table. The thing about this habitual goober-wiping is that it comes at fairly regular intervals; as he was my only customer between the hours of 7 a.m. and approximately 9:30 a.m., I had ample time to observe. Every few minutes: swipe! And post-swipe, a swift look to the left, and back to munching.
The first mystery: why the booger wiping? He had several napkins at his disposal, and a bored but helpful waitress lurking about to bring him more. Also, the bathroom — which everyone deigns to miss, despite the 19 signs — was almost within sight.
Second mystery: why look left after every swipe? I can personally attest to the fact that he was the only person in the room, and unless he was deaf and blind in addition to being quirky and chalk full of snot, he must have known that. The only person that was watching was me! And I was straight ahead, behind a partition, two half empty-coffee pots, three wilting sunflowers and a stack of exactly 23 menus. It was a very long morning.
So, my point is this: how can we as a collective be unhappy when there are so many small mysteries just begging to be deciphered? Enjoyed? If even chronic boogie wipers can be oddly uplifting, how much more so true moments of happiness, kindness, unexpected joy?
Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” Experience is a gift to us measly humans — the ability to touch, taste, smell, hear, twirl, cry, laugh, scream and make sense of all the mysteries — big and small — in some way. And when none of that works, a good booger smear might just do the trick. If anything, it might give some bored waitress with too little sleep and too much coffee a reason to smile — dammit!