Fun, Fun, Fun — Part Three

The Pursuit of Happiness

Liberty Leading the People Eugene Delacroix 1830 britannica

As Hope said himself, he could not look in the mirror if he didn’t go out to the front. Not because he liked war. Because he loved people, and especially those men and women who served. That’s precisely what they felt, too.

They didn’t like the war, but they loved the men and women they served with, especially the ones right next to them in battle.

Exactly like the men and women who serve today. They don’t fight for country, or for you and me. Probably not even for family back home. They fight for the person sitting next to them being shot at. Even the fraction who, imperfectly, flawed, sometimes do what we may consider the wrong thing. And that’s the only way to do it, the only way to survive, physically, and emotionally, if at all. If you aren’t there, if you’ve never been through it, you don’t and cannot understand it.

Hope did, because he was there.

“The further truth that the undivided mind is aware of experience as a unity, of the world as itself, and that the whole nature of mind and awareness is to be one with what it knows, suggests a state that would usually be called love… Love is the organizing and unifying principle which makes the world a universe and the disintegrated mass a community. It is the very essence and character of mind, and becomes manifest in action when the mind is whole… This, rather than any mere emotion, is the power and principle of free action.” (Watts)

Toni Morrison talked about this quite eloquently. So did James Baldwin. Faulkner devoted his entire oeuvre to it. And Adrienne Rich had this to add to the conversation:

“Behind all art is an element of desire. … Love of life, of existence, love of another human being, love of human beings is in some way behind all art — even the most angry, even the darkest, even the most grief-stricken, and even the most embittered art has that element somewhere behind it. Because how could you be so despairing, so embittered, if you had not had something you loved that you lost?”

I look myself in the mirror, most days more than once. I don’t know how you do these balancing acts when attempting to judge people like Bob Hope, or characters like Bugs Bunny. I still don’t. Everyone has good and bad in them. How does it work?

Take a look at Anthony Wiener. Picking an example out of a hat. No, not a pun. He is our country’s, our century’s Alcibiades. Perhaps. Couldn’t keep his cock off the phone. Maybe even worse than that (some say, but what do they know? People always “say,” don’t they?).

But Wiener devoted his entire working life to serving the best interests of poor people, every living day. In between texts. How do you deal with that balancing act? I don’t know the answer for people like that.

For people like THAT.

I don’t know the answer for myself. I don’t know if there can be an answer, do you?

Except… Be careful how you judge. Take the best that people offer and deal with the worst. I guess.

Some people think other people lack integrity.

Never forget there’s always a mirror around.

I had enough integrity to be satisfied that I didn’t get drafted and didn’t have to love the poor bastard next to me getting blown to bits in a rice paddy, making me want to run away and have bad dreams for the remainder of my miserable life. How’s that for standards of taste?

No, Bob Hope, the public person, is just fine with me. And I like his jokes. I love ’em. Hate the war. Love the man.

There’d be no Bugs Bunny without him. Maybe. I can’t even imagine living in a world like that. What would be the point? If Vida Blue can dig him, can follow him into the jungles of Vietnam, risk his life, why can’t you? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vida_Blue

Therefore, I would recommend that every living human being take a course in Bob Hope movies, as well, even the bad ones (What? A bad Hope movie? Yeah, that one about Sweden…). The most cheerfully enlightening thing anyone could do, even if they did have to pay tuition.

Now, we may go On the Road (and three guesses where Kerouac got THAT from) to Our Founding Fathers (once again, please hold off on the hashtags, por favor…because I am not done yet…take a look at that easy-to-follow bar on the right side…)

You don’t have to be someone wearing a holster with a framed edition of The Constitution on the wall to have a total misunderstanding of the phrase “pursuit of happiness.” (Although it does help if you go around making speeches about it and hugging flags.)

It’s hard to find anyone who actually does understand what “pursuit of happiness” actually means, what it meant to the Founders who wrote those words.

So, let me tell you.

After the Weinstein affair broke like an egg in the face, that fantastic film critic, Stewart Klawans, went to the New York Film Festival and wrote a column, saying that none of the films there solved the problems of the day, or something to that effect.

Not only film, but art in general is not going to solve any of our problems.

Art will never solve our problems. From the cave drawings to today on into the future. Indeed, any passing glance at art causes many of our problems when it isn’t simply aiding and abetting them or those who cause them.

At its best art does two good things for us. It gives us pleasure and it gives us an opportunity to think. That’s not bad for an abstraction in and of itself. Huh? I’m asking you! They are good reasons to create art. All forms of art, including film. Good reasons for artists to continue to do their work. People need the pleasures of good art, and perhaps more importantly they need those opportunities to think and to think in ways that only good art can make them think.

The Founders understood this.

At the founding of our nation, the people who were responsible for it, those Founders, for all their lack of insight into the future, made a promise. They told us, their “children” (using exactly that word) as well as everyone around who would listen to them at the time (including King George) that they were “men of politics, war and commerce” whose sole purpose was creating a land where we, their “children,” could become those who would only “study philosophy and art.” Things to create and to make us think.

Period.

This was their aspiration, their sole purpose in life, the reason behind the freedom they sought as far as they were concerned. The reason behind the revolution they fought at risk of their own lives. The very true meaning of the phrase, “pursuit of happiness.” That we, their children, would ultimately abandon war, politics and commerce for philosophy and art alone.

But is it enough? Is it what we want?

Do we still seek pleasure from war, politics and commerce?

Possessor of Paul Newman eyes. Author of many things straightforward and strange. Some of them appear here. “Women zai shuo ba” as the Mandarin say. Born 2016.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store