whatever makes you happy


This is a response to a response to a response. I jumped on board with the discussion via Chipper Things, my most uncharacteristic source of inspiration (but maybe my best one).

The primary idea is that happiness equals expectations minus reality. It’s a zero-sum game, I suppose, and it’s nowhere more apparent than in sports.

Here are two mostly inconsequential examples:

1) Right now I wish I were a Houston Astros fan rather than a Texas Rangers fan, despite the fact that the Rangers still have an outside chance to win the World Series and the Astros were eliminated sometime around the Final Four. The expectation at the beginning of September was that the Rangers would be rapidly moving toward clinching the American League West at this late date. They’re not and they might not make the playoffs. World Series minus missing the playoffs equals unhappiness.

2) Texas Tech football is 3-0 despite playing exclusively freshmen at quarterback so far this season and the Red Raiders have a win over ranked conference rival TCU on national TV. Fear of a shaky start minus an excellent start equals happiness.

And here’s an example that speaks a pretty profound truth:

Late last year, I read a fascinating book called “The Queen of Katwe” by Tim Crothers. It’s the story of Phiona Mutesi, a chess champion who ascended from the unlikeliest of places: the Ugandan slum of Katwe

In order to compete in her first international tournament, Phiona left the slum for the first time, took a ride in a car for the first time and an airplane for the first time in order to travel to Sudan. There she stayed in a hotel for the first time, ordered a big fish in a restaurant for the first time. She experienced a new world that she hadn’t even imagined existed. And then she returned to Katwe with the knowledge of good and evil that the place where she lived was definitively worse than other places. The author describes the cost of striving like this:

“Many have argued that the average African is more serene than the average American, and much of the reason has to do with access. Many people in Katwe do not know there is anything better for which to strive, which leads to an odd kind of tranquility, which some might call lethargy. Every day people like Phiona Mutesi walk a fine line between quiet forbearance and hopelessness, a line that had to be redrawn when Phiona saw what she saw in Sudan.”

I read this and had one of those moments when everything seemed connected. I realized that reaching for things, striving for things always causes discomfort. It’s inevitable. Phiona’s success caused her pain. But I’m guessing she wouldn’t change anything. She is brave. Hoping, striving, being a bit delusional all take bravery.

We know we might get hurt. But that doesn’t stop us.

Photo found at blacksportsonline.com.


2 responses to “whatever makes you happy

  1. Damn that’s good. How did I not already know you’d pull that analogy. I didn’t read the book, but I remember you telling me that. So true.

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