the theory of happiness

Pay-Day  by Anton Muller (1853-97)
look closely … the artist is beginning to smile.

being a painter is like being in a brotherhood (or sisterhood). many commonalities, shared experiences, similar patterns. most painters I know experience varying degrees of the following cycle: you start a painting. a little detached at first but slowly, inexorably become more involved. you start to see things in the painting and start getting excited, drawn into the exploration. you fall asleep at night thinking about the painting. you wake up thinking about the painting. you think about the painting when grocery shopping, putting gas in the car, while going to the bathroom. you are obsessed, consumed, compelled to discover what has yet to be revealed. you need to find what the painting wants to be and you don't stop until you find it. you feel as though you have a deeply meaningful purpose in life. when you find it you are relieved, awakened, pumped. you feel like you got a new girlfriend, like you're falling in love, over the moon. eventually, you start showing the painting. the people you're showing it to don't even hardly notice. they look away, change the topic, make a bad joke. later you start feeling weird. are you self-delusional? is it a piece of crapola? how could you have been so high and now so low? you feel crazy. then, one day, somebody notices it. they ask about it, want to see it in better light, inquire about measurements. they can't stop looking at the painting. they ask about the price. you tell them the price. they nod, look some more. they're falling in love and they want to buy the painting. they make you an offer, you negotiate, you agree. immediately you are happy, affirmed, validated. you deliver the painting and they're happy. they give you the money and you're happy. you do your happy dance. you pay down bills, buy some really excellent wine & food, give some money to your kids, get more paint, canvas, brushes and carry on this reckless rhythm of anxiety and ecstasy. is money the wellspring of happiness? no, happiness is not dependant on money. the deeper more meaningful source of happiness is learning trust in the face of the unknown, remaining in doubt yet full of belief, living with mystery and making peace with uncertainty.


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