Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Happy Thought

There seems to be a lot written these days about happiness. There's a burgeoning cottage industry in happiness studies and guides. The underlying premise is that happiness is a goal of life. You're not happy? Well, you gotta do something about it.

Yesterday I was driving home from a trip to Berkeley and put Jackie McLean's Destination Out! in the car CD player. Although, McLean is the nominal leader on this set, it's really a Grachan Moncur III album. Three of the four songs are penned by Moncur. I've become a real Moncur fan lately. It's too bad he didn't play a different instrument. It had to have been hard to make it as an avant-garde trombonist.

The first song on Destination Out! is Moncur's "Love and Hate". It is the most plaintive song I've heard in a long while. While I was listening to it, I heard a message as clear as if the song had lyrics, maybe even clearer considering how deeply I understood it. It was this: "Sadness is a part of life. You just have to accept it." That thought filled me happiness.

While happiness studies and psychological guides to happiness tend to have the opposite intended effect by filling you with anxiety as you worry about and focus your energies on achieving a perhaps unobtainable goal, music, especially the blues, by focussing on the sadness of life, can relieve you of it, if only momentarily.

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