This weekend, the girls had a double sleep-over with their grandparents, so the Big Man and I had a night out. We did something that we hardly ever do anymore: we went to a movie. It seemed like such a treat — thus proving the advice of happiness experts who advocate periods of deprivation to sharpen pleasures.
We saw Rachel Getting Married, which I highly recommend, purely for movie pleasure, and also as a catalyst for thinking about the nature of happiness. I was thinking about why watching a movie — like my favorite Junebug or After the Wedding or Knocked Up – can be such a useful happiness exercise.
I think it’s because of the multiple points of view that a movie forces you to adopt. In your own life, it’s extremely difficult to imagine a situation from someone else’s perspective. You see the reasons why you act the way you act, it’s hard to understand why other people act the way they do.
But in a movie, where you’re not directly involved, and where you see circumstances unfold that affect many characters in different ways, you’re better able to reflect on the mysteries of happiness. For example, Rachel Getting Married sheds light on complicated happiness questions like: Why might a person be drawn to a troubled, hurtful person? What is unforgiveable? How can a person simultaneously love and hate someone else? Why do some people insist on having the spotlight every minute? How does a person show love in the most effective way? What it mean to take responsibility for a grave mistake? How do we hold on to memories of someone who has died? What’s the best way to show support for a recovering addict? Etc.
By watching and thinking about a movie, you can gain insight into the happiness challenges in your own life. As a parent, I was particularly engaged by watching the actions of Rachel’s parents. Were they doing the right things, or the wrong things? What would I have done, if I had been in those situations? Because the problems are imaginary and impersonal, it’s not painful to think about it — as it often is, in real life.
The very cool journalist Juliette Dominguez has started a blog, Follow Your Bliss — definitely worth a read, especially if you love beautiful photographs of the natural world.
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