MY COMMONPLACE BOOK (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
You have every right to be happy no matter what. If other people are unhappy, you do the best you can for them . . . but you do not deny yourself happiness on their account. It does them no real good if you do. On the contrary . . . so be happy for other people’s sake as well as for your own sake. And if you believe in God, be happy for God’s sake too because that is what God created you to be.— Frederick Buechner (clergyman, author), from The Clown in the Belfry(a book for young people)
Advice to young people? Buechner’s advice is invaluable at any age, and whatever your religious beliefs!
I remember the time in Berkeley (1965—1980ish?) when we protested errors and atrocities of American foreign policy, the plight of the poor, racism, etc. I marched with friends in most of the protests, attended meetings, did countless readings of my work at benefits for good causes, and against bad ones. But that didn’t seem to be enough for some friends. If I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed a local performance of a concert, a comic movie, or a classic play, they looked at me disapprovingly, as if I could do more against war, poverty, racism, etc. by denying myself pleasure in the good things they and I were lucky to have, the pleasures we were trying to win for everyone with our protests.
Today, I would say what I should have said (so politically incorrectly!) thirty-odd years ago: if there’s something I can give or say or write that will help, I’ll do it. But don’t ask me to stop feeling happy whenever I can: grateful for live music, inspired by a good poetry reading, reveling in good bookstores (fewer today—alas), an excellent public library, and the spillover of cultural riches from a great university.
Maybe becoming un-guilt-trip-able is one benefit of age.
(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)