Last night, for example, I had a moment of profound satisfaction, courtesy of the Internet.
When I was doing my research for Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, I came across an anecdote in a diary related to World War II. I loved it — but I lost it.
I’d read so many wartime diaries — from where did this story come? I was sure that I’d copied the passage into my huge trove of notes and quotations, but somehow it had vanished. It flitted through my mind every once in a while, but last week I became determined to find it again. It seemed relevant to my happiness research.
I thought that I remembered that it was in Jock Colville’s wonderful Fringes of Power, and I actually paged through the whole book looking for this story, but I couldn’t find it.
Finally, it occurred to me: the story seemed obscure, but maybe I could find it and its source on the Internet (why it took me so long to have this thought, I don’t know).
Now, I couldn’t remember the story exactly. I hadn’t read it in five or six years. But I searched for the terms “Englishman” “fine vessel” and “sinking.” And search, search, search…Eureka! I found the story that had eluded me for so long.
Here it is.
It wasn’t Jock Colville, it was Harold Nicolson. In June 1941 he was working at the wartime Ministry of Information, and he wrote in his diary for June 10:
The Middle East have no sense of publicity. The Admiralty is even worse. We complain that there are no photographs of the sinking of the Bismarck. Tripp says that the official photographer was in the Suffolk and that the Suffolk was too far away.
We say, ‘But why didn’t one of our reconnaissance machines fly over the ship and take photographs?’
He replies, ‘Well you see, you must see, well upon my word, well after all, an Englishman would not like to take snapshots of a fine vessel sinking.’
Is he right? I felt abashed when he said it. I think he is right.
Oh my goodness, what immense satisfaction I feel at having this story safely typed in my notes. I love it. It ties into one of the themes that I feel circling around the edges of happiness: the happiness of work well done, the instinct for workmanship. I’m not ready to tackle it yet, but I’m getting closer.
The Think Simple Now blog covers “Creativity, clarity, and happiness” so naturally I was thrilled to find it.
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