I was hanging out with good friend, absurdist author, and real-life Muppet A.M. Hounchell. In the abrupt way that one meets a person while sitting with an absurdist, I met Tre, an insightful young man from Louisiana with the cool and depth of performing artist Donald Glover.
We three were talking about existential stuff that was far above our pay grade, and I happened to say,
Happiness is a choice.
This is a concept that has settled upon me like shellac on a table–it makes me shiny, and I just don’t think about it much anymore.
But for Tre, this was a fascinating idea. He said he wanted to hear my story. Like, he sat down and gave me his full attention, ready to listen.
So I told him about how it started, how the sorrows kept piling up, and how I despaired about it.
I told him I finally realized none of the crap was going away anytime soon, and that if I was going to be happy, it was going to be a deliberate choice that I make–every two minutes if I had to. Happiness is the result of a string of consistent life actions. It is a way of life.
True, life is full of beautiful moments, but those moments, no matter how transcendent, were not made to last, and certainly can’t make you happy.
This conversation made me think about my most recent retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
The original novel, La Belle et la Bête was written by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (1685-1755). In this longer version, we get more of the Beast’s back story (which I pick up parts of in my telling). He was a prince who had been raised by a rather evil fairy. When he was grown, she tried to seduce him, but he refused her. In spite, the fairy turned him to a beast.
What struck me most about this piece of summary on Wikipedia was a lack of fault on the part of the young prince. Unlike the burden of selfishness that Disney placed upon the character, my Beast is a character that began with a good heart and became calloused and dark from years of emotional poisoning and undeserved hardship.
I’m a strong believer in the idea that a person’s nature very, very rarely changes for another person, least of all a significant other. However, I do believe that good souls can accumulate a nasty, bitter crust if they let life get to them, and such bitterness rarely results in happiness for anyone.
In this humble re-telling, both Beauty and Beast have to face what the choices of others have done to them, and somehow, they see the softness in each other and find their original purity.
No one is impervious to the woes of life. The unwise or wicked choices of the people we love and trust can hurt us–they may even break us. Good intentions and a kind heart can’t always keep us safe.
But sometimes, silence can calm fear. Patience can foster understanding. An open mind can breed friendship. Mindful kindness can blossom into love.
Happiness is a choice, and so is Love.
In these times, Love is a radical act.