Letter #13: Collecting Happiness
Call me a crow, because I’m collecting nice, shiny things
Let’s get into happiness, involving the way people collect moments and shiny things for a grasp at happiness. Sorry, that got a bit too thesis statement-y on main. (In this essay, I will…)
Like with roughly 48% of my research ideas, this letter topic came to mind after I listened to the “Eudemonology (HAPPINESS) with Laurie Santos” Ologies episode.
Check it out here:
I clicked on this episode of Ologies because 1) I’m pretty much always interested in her episodes and 2) I do find this subject quite interesting.
First, Some Backstory
I took a class on the psychology of happiness in senior year of college, which ended up with us reading a ton of different people’s thoughts on happiness and some documentaries.
We went through Aristotle, Socrates, a bunch of people whose names I am very sadly forgetting because their stuff was neat, and (interestingly enough) Willa Cather.
Willa Cather tends to mostly be known for My Antonia, which high school me found terribly boring, but everybody is sleeping on her short stories! I found them much more intriguing. Here, there’s apparently a Willa Cather Archive that has collected her short stories online: https://cather.unl.edu/writings/shortfiction. (I remember reading five of her stories for class, specifically “The Wagner Matinee.”)
Side Note: Cather is the name of our protagonist in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, which I just read this year (finally) and it was as perfect as all her other work I’ve read. I was thinking of Willa Cather’s work a lot throughout this book, given Cath’s name cropping up so often.
Side-Side Note: I was going to be nerdy and mention how many occurrences her name pops up (both “Cath” and “Cather”), but I couldn’t find that online. (Probably for good reason.) I did look. And I’d need to check the book back out from the library if I want to count. Also, counting how many times a protagonist’s name shows up in a book might not be the most efficient, productive, or fun way to spend my free time. Alas, the world may never know.
We finished the class off by watching the documentary Happy from 2012 and writing a paper about what we thought happiness meant after all those readings. (Along with comparing it to the original definitions we gave at the beginning of the class. I really need to find this paper to see what I said.)
So essentially I’ve taken a eudemonology class already!
According to Ologies host Alie Ward, the term eudemonology “comes from eudemon, which is Greek for ‘a benevolent demon’ or ‘a good spirit’… it was a term used by 19th century humanistic philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer… he called eudemonology ‘the art of ordering our lives so as to obtain the greatest possible amount of pleasure and success’” (Ward).
Fun Fact: As I was typing this, my word processor did not like the word ‘eudemonology.’ It wanted to autocorrect to “eudemon ology” or “EU demonology,” which I just found mildly entertaining because I now imagine Crowley (yes, I will not stop talking about Good Omens) teaching this to either humans or the frog demons down below with his ‘60s projector and ‘stache. (You can get a “wahoo.”)
Examples of Collecting Happiness
I recently found @misskatyenglish on Instagram and her little happy moment posts, which I find adorable! She posts a cute picture and lists things that made her happy that day or week, along with her other very cozy content.
Here’s an example:
I think we all know how much humans enjoy collecting things. Jewelry, clothes, old toys, antiques, rocks, books, figurines, sticks, flowers. If you can think of it, there’s probably somebody collecting it. Humans like gobbling stuff up, hoarding pretty things like a dragon’s treasure, and even collecting memories/happy moments.
I like to think this is why people enjoy pictures so much. People want to collect their memories to look back at later, so they take photos. They compile photos of other people doing things they appreciate on Pinterest boards. They scroll through curated Instagram feeds that match their interests. Photo albums (both the physical and digital ones) are simply collections of memories.
This just makes my brain go to those now-kind-of-annoying-to-me-because-it’s-the-physical-equivalent-of-overplaying-a-song autumn prints, shirts, pillows, and doormats that say things like “pumpkins, pumpkin spice lattes, crunchy leaves, candles, hay rides.” I see them everywhere and yes, though I do like fall things, it just irks me very slightly seeing this only-slightly-changed-up phrasing everywhere.
I think it might be also partially the fact that I don’t know who first said it, so I don’t know how to cite it and that pains the little scholar in me. Quotes mean a lot to me, so I want to know who said something that means a lot to me. I’d like to be able to convey to them that they said or did something helpful, because it makes me happy knowing I did something helpful or meaningful to someone else.
But, my point!
I am describing this because this is a list of things people enjoy! They are collecting autumnal stuff, or the idea of these fall-like things on some sort of physical item.
So I think it’s really adorable and interesting seeing someone listing a collection of things that made/makes them happy. I know it’s become common for people to make gratitude lists as a form of self-care and this happiness list feels similar. Like, “hey, I’m happy about this thing, and grateful that it made me happy, so I’m going to share it with you in the hopes it might make you happy too.”
Oh dear, putting a word in italics and adding way too many “s’s” instantly makes me sound like Gollum. Fun.
That’s another thing I love about people. People aren’t always the greatest, but they can be good. They can want to share. They can want to be kind and make other people as happy as they are, or even happier than they are. Some people do nice things for other people to make themselves happier. I think this is why gift-giving is so important to some. (It’s also one of the five love languages, so there’s also that.)
Maybe it’s a good exercise for happiness/self-care (what is self-care but trying to be happier, really?) to try making these little happiness lists.
So, here, I’m giving it a shot:
An aside: I drew this a few weeks ago, before I wrote this article, so these aren’t from this current week.
Some things that made me happy this week were: art on Instagram, my dog being unfairly cute, Rachel Maksy being hilarious on YouTube, making fondant potatoes, talking with other creators on Substack and Instagram, kale, and it being the week of Halloween.
Okay, I’m about done with this letter, but here’s a link for further reading that made me happy and I will probably address more later on:
It’s cozy escape room ideas! Intrigued? I certainly was! Think of the stories! Think of the dates! Think of the stories in which your favorite characters are on a date here and some convoluted plot beat comes into play! I’m pumped about this and I haven’t even started writing a scene yet! (Yet.)
Also, I know I literally just talked about Ologies last week, but it did inspire this letter, so here it is again!
Find out more about the Happy documentary here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1613092/.
For more information about the Five Love Languages, or to take the quiz to find your own, check here: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes
Have a lovely week leading up to Halloween and happy reading!
Just a note: I’ve realized I always sign off with “happy reading,” even when I haven’t mentioned reading a book. So, to clarify my intention: I mean it as an encouragement to read whatever you want to or can, whether that be a book, an article, a webcomic, an Instagram post. It’s all reading. It all builds a body of knowledge and research, just in different ways. Any time reading is time well spent, no matter what you’re reading.
Quote of the Week:
“Happiness is in the quiet, ordinary things. A table, a chair, a book with a paper-knife stuck between the pages. And the petal falling from the rose, and the light flickering as we sit silent.” ―Virginia Woolf
Works Cited (MLA 9th Ed.):
Ward, Alie. “‘Eudemonology (HAPPINESS) with Laurie Santos’ .” Ologies with Alie Ward, 8 Sept. 2021.