The pursuit of happiness

Tuesday evening I met up with a friend for a beer. He had been going through some tough times. He had recently lost his job and needed to get out of the house. At one point I asked him something about how he was doing or what his plans were and he responded, “I’m trying to have a good time.”

I just recall thinking to my self, “This is one of the most miserably people I know. Having a good time sounds like a pretty lofty goal.” Of course I was really thinking about myself. Of course I wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to have a good time. I just know that from my experience, pursuing happiness as a goal is bound to end in disappointment. Happiness happens, but not when I’m expecting it.

Rethinking what motivates me has been on my mind a lot over the past week. I’ve been called a hedonist before and for the longest time I took no objection to that term. Hedonism is the devotion to pleasure. How can that be a bad thing? Especial when understanding that my pleasure is dependent on the circumstances of the people around me. Devoting one’s life to bringing pleasure to the world sounds like a beautiful thing to do.

As an entertainer I hope that I bring pleasure, happiness, good times and amusement to the world. But is that what entertainment means to me?

I was discussing this subject with my son Sunday evening. He is an actor and musician. We had just seen Propeller’s production of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” at the Guthrie Theater. I felt impressed, inspired, intrigued, incompetent, moved, changed, at times aroused, but not anything that I would associate with being entertained. My son and I had shared a meaningful experience. We felt connected to one another and to the playwright and actors. To my son, this is what art is meant to do; create a shared, meaningful experience.

But for many, music, dance, theater, comedy, television, movies, literature and other arts are just entertainment. That’s fine. There is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that people are entertained by what I do, but that’s not why I do it. I don’t think that most artists would do what they do if they only viewed it as entertainment. The act of creating art is hard work, it’s frustrating, painful and wrought with failure and disappointment. We do it because we have to; because it is who we are. We do it to give our lives meaning and purpose. We do it to feel connected to the world around us.

Yet, there are those occasions where it brings us great joy. Creating something that we conciser absolutely brilliant or putting on an amazing show that connects us with the audience can put a smile on our face.

My bff was relating her favorite Venus story to me this past weekend. We had just put on an incredible performance to a packed house at First Avenue for the David Bowie tribute show, Rebel Rebel (Rock for Pussy) and Venus was on cloud nine. S/he was simple glowing and dancing and having the time of hir life.

Yes, happiness can be found in this life but as an artist, it is not my pursuit. As a person who’s life is filled with adversity, having a good time is not my goal. I am not seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. I’m just trying to keep going in the pursuit of meaning and purpose. If along the way I find happiness, joy and entertainment, I’ll take that too… as long as I can share it with you.

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About lefreakshow
A walking contradiction attempting to make sense of this crazy world though the power of creation, exploration and communication.

One Response to The pursuit of happiness

  1. I have always viewed happiness as a mood and not a destination. That helps me put things in perspective when happiness seems so far away.

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