A Chinese filmmaker congratulates an Iranian cleric who has just finished speaking on the meaning of Happiness, in fluent Mandarin. Boy in [apparent] Italian sweatshirt looks on. Scene captured by an American photographer. How’s that for Kumbaya?
“The meaning of happiness is different for everyone. Though the happiness is the same, the paths to that happiness are many. Even within monotheism, even within Islam, there are many different paths. Outside of monotheism, those paths increase exponentially.” (His answer, translated back into Farsi, then into English.)
“I work at the UN. I study happiness, actually.”
“So what’s happiness then?”
“Well it’s very strongly related to income, but only to a certain amount. After about $20,000 a year, it becomes much more dependent on the amount of time we spend with family and friends. This is something we seem to intuitively know at the beginning and end of our lives— but lose sight of in the middle.”
Today I had the honor of speaking at the UNIS conference at the UN. After I was finished, three students recited original poems from the stage. One of them really blew me away:
Overqualified yet underachieving
It’s singing delightfully off key to the radio
Yet pitch perfect in the shower
It’s spending a half hour in the morning
Perfecting your messy bun
It’s gelling bedhead
It’s lifting weights yet covering yourself up in turtlenecks
It’s being a closet philosopher but blaming lackluster grades on “not trying?”
It’s tumbling, sharing, instagramming
The perpetual pursuit of cool but aloof,
hard to get,
It’s the cycle of hurting
lying… and then telling the truth.
But perhaps when we’re older
a new set of problems will cause us to miss those of adolescence.
So I guess we should learn to love the pain,
Since it’s pain that allows us to live and love radically,
and smell the coffee or watch the stars, or hear the music
that we might later pass by in the rush of the real world.
For now we are poets
Engineers and Inventors
For now, we are what we want to be.
Some say the grass is greener on the other side but I’d disagree:
I say our grass fluorescent.
I found this man in a bodega in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He didn’t speak much English, so I asked his friends about him. “He owns the whole block,” they told me, “but he just hangs out here everyday. He lives a simple life. He drinks a little bit, eats a little bit, get a little pussy.” I started laughing. “We’re serious,” they said. “All the time.”
After I took her photo, she stuck her cheek out for a kiss. After I gave her one, she said: “Isn’t love great?”
“Yes it is,” I replied. Then she leaned in and said:
“But sex is better.”
The table is covered in polish and each of my nails is a slightly different shade of disaster. All in all, a good day.