T’was a philosophical sort of day. I had not the mood to do much other than go on long walks, and when at home lie down and read. The children indulged me, and were secretly happy that nothing else was being asked of them.
It was in this philosophical vein that I dragged the husband along for a walk that evening. The glorious Spring evening had me mooing about the tree lined streets, sticking my nose in flowers, inhaling deeply the scents of lavender bushes and roses. My nose was covered in pollen and I started an impressive bout of sneezing.
“Really! When folks say, “Stop to smell the roses. 🥀”, you don’t have to do exactly that you know?” said the husband. His manner seemed to indicate that it was only a matter of time before a couple of butterflies started sitting on my nose to do their bit in the whole divinity of spring exercise.
“But, it makes me so happy! “ I said.
He deftly diverted the conv. to safer grounds. “If happiness is a feeling or an emotion. Where do you think it emanates?”
Was it the endorphins that made that happen? We went on our walk discussing half-baked theories on serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and some-other-in, that would have made WhatsApp forwarders proud. By the time, we had circled back on whether there is enough neuroscience based research on the subject of brains, happiness, and its link to depression, we were clearly out of our depths.
Minds far superior to ours have pondered the essence of an emotion. Does it originate in the brain, then how does one feel one’s stomach clench when anxious, or one’s heart fill out when happy? Sometimes, I think we are nothing beyond the carriers for the emotion rivers that decide to course our bodies. As we age, we are supposed to grow more sanguine, but I feel that only happens for the positive emotions, not the negative ones. We do not whoop with joy, but we still feel intense grief. It is all highly muddling.
“Maybe happiness as an emotion can only be meaningful when one knows the opposite. You need to be sad at times to feel joy, feel angry to know the beauty of peace.” said the husband looking as Zen-like as it is possible for his spirit to be.
Later, I reached out for the one place where I know all of Life’s great questions are answered, a children’s book. Titled Cry Heart, But Never Break, by Glenn Ringtved, Illustrated by Charlotte Pardi, Translated by Robert Moulthrop.
In it, Death comes knocking at the door to claim the old grandmother dying upstairs and spends the night with her grandchildren. The children ask Death why their beloved grandmother must die. Death tells the children a story. A story of 4 children: 2 sunny sisters, Joy & Delight, who fall in love with 2 gloomy brothers Grief & Sorrow. He explains how each complements the other. Without grief and sorrow, one does not find true joy and learn to enjoy delight in life. Without Death, one does not enjoy Life, he says.
Written by the Author when his mother was dying of cancer, the book is beautifully narrated, and the illustrations are emotive. It is a book about Emotions after all.
And there in a nutshell was the gist of our half baked philosopher’s walk-and-talk. As good children’s books do, the book in one fell swoop, captured the nub of a 3 mile saunter in 10 pages, far more effectively. I tell you, Children’s book authors and illustrators are the truest custodians of the Human Spirit.