Willa Cather on Happiness

Photo by Lila Cheekytree

I’m currently reading the book My Ántonia by American writer Willa Cather. Written in 1918 it depicts the early American push to expand westward.  I came across this beautiful passage and dog-eared the page so that I could come back and read it again:

The earth was under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermillion, with black spots. I kept still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

I had not heard of Willa Cather until recently when I listened to this CBC podcast on Ideas with Paul Kennedy, it’s worth listening to. She was an exceptional woman and a great American writer. If you’re already familiar with her, here are 10 things You Probably Didn’t Know about Willa Cather according to Publisher’s Weekly.

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The Night Circus is magical

An ode to the book The Night Circus

Perhaps it was Toronto’s cold weather and grey skies, but last week I really needed an escape from the reality of the November gloom and my nasty head cold. Ironically, it was a nocturnal world of black and white and shades of grey that was able to transport me out of my funk. The Night Circus, the new novel by Erin Morgenstern is a magical story that lifted my spirits. Sure it has all the right elements every good fairy tale should: magical powers, cruel parenting, a battle to-the-death, and true love, but the reason why I voraciously consumed this book is the author’s delicious use of language. As I read it, my stuffy nose could smell the scents of caramel and cinnamon that wafted through the circus air.

Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

HELL YEAH!

Have you ever had a mentor? Some of the best mentors I’ve had in life are people I’ve never even met; people who have shared their experiences and wisdom with me by writing a book.

One mentor of mine is Derek Sivers the author of Anything You Want. This book is for entrepreneurs, but his simple, very direct advice can be helpful to all of us who want to feel excited about work and life.  This quote from Derek really made me stop and reflect on my own little distractions:

 “Don’t be on your deathbed someday, having squandered your one chance at life, full of regret because you pursued little distractions instead of big dreams.

You need to know your personal philosophy of what makes you happy and what’s worth doing.”

So how can we tell what’s really worth doing?

Derek suggests that when we’re deciding to do something, if we feel anything less than “HELL YEAH!” about it, then we should simply say “no”.

Sure, I know that’s not so simple. We all have things in life we must do that aren’t exactly thrilling:

  • Hell yeah! I’ll cook dinner.
  • Hell yeah! I’ll pay my Visa bill.
  • Hell yeah! I’m off to the dentist.

But there are lots of things we commit to doing, just because that little voice in our head tells us “I should”.

I wonder. If we busy ourselves doing all the “right” things, that in the end leave us feeling frazzled, who are we really making happy?

We can’t please everyone in life, so at the very least, please yourself. Now that’s something I can emphatically say “HELL YEAH!” to.

Is anyone with me?