Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Path? What Purpose?

A recent comment on a friend's blog got my dander in a fluff- This person said the way they made time for writing was by not having children, and the tone seemed to imply that people who have kids and try to accomplish other things are morons for bothering with the kids and not just doing the important stuff.

I read some of "The Happiness Myth" by Jennifer Hecht and found it interesting- she focuses on putting our cultural ideals in a historical perspective- why are some drugs okay and others are bad, and how that changes across time and different stratuses of society (ie, Cocaine was widely touted as a nerve restorative before being recast as a destroyer. The way physical ideals are counterproductive for many people (here, here! I would have been perfectly happy to have been born in the 1700s in Italy, if I go by their sculptures of pear-shaped women!)

The point is, I've been thinking a bit about what makes people happy. And by far the best, most accurate way to find happiness is in service to others, especially family. I am not saying that we should never do anything for ourselves, but that when we are unhappy, usually the answer is to reach out to others, not to focus on our own happiness.

Lots of people write from an empty heart, stories full of selfish, whiny people who can't stand their lives or other human beings. (see: The Stranger by Albert Camus) Without my family, my husband and children, parents, siblings, friends at church, neighbors, I would not have a heart worth writing from. Maybe this explains my hatred of Hemingway? And Mrs. Dalloway. And Steinbeck (although I don't think it was selfishness but despair that runs through his stories.)

For you personally, is art for art's sake valid? Is it okay to write stories that don't have a positive message, just because it's a cool idea? (Think Edgar Allen Poe.) What do you guys think?


  1. I happen to be writing about a man who sacrifices everything for his daughter, so of course I agree. It's a story I never could have told without being a dad. And I don't think I'll ever be able to write a novel without a theme that I feel deeply about. It's just not worth the effort.

  2. I think you're right Ben- it's just not worth the effort. But to some people it is- there are lots of people who seem to write just to share how much life sucks. I don't get it. People can write whatever they want, but I don't get it. And I certainly don't have to read it, now that I'm not a student;)