It’s become a social imperative to be happy, or, at least, not to ever admit to being unhappy, except to psychologists who are paid to trawl through acres of human misery. My favourite Winnie-the-Pooh character is Eeyore, the lugubrious donkey, who made a career out of being unhappy, or, at least, pretending to be. I’d like to share a rain-cloud with him. He once remarked: “This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it.”
The late British philosopher, Alan Watts once remarked “If I draw a circle then ask people what I have drawn, most will say ‘a circle’. Very few will say ‘a hole’. But, the circle and the hole, the inner and the outer, together make up the whole, if you’ll pardon the pun. Who we are is the inside, where we are is the outside. Both conflated, determines whether or not we might describe ourselves as ‘happy’. Vagabonds spend a lot of time rearranging their geography or, if you will, reconfiguring their circles in different places. For a brief, standstill moment in church yesterday, the geography sharpened to pinpoint accuracy, the mountains held their breath and outer and inner resonated with a pure, perfect tone.
As an inveterate voyeur, I have learned that I derive pleasure from watching other people engage in pleasurable acts. Neglecting pornography, I think this is an entirely normal state of mind, which is why I spend a lot of time in cafes and coffee shops. There’s a rather enterprising cafe in Tel Aviv which has completely dispensed with the notion of serving food and coffee altogether – it serves its patrons empty plates and charges real money. People still come to watch and listen, cocooned in an intimate, manageable microcosm of the world; every detail clearly focused. Men peck each other on the cheek here and it’s interesting to speculate about them, since the enthusiasm with which they do so is in some way unknown to me concerned with the relationship they have with each other. I was once in a hotel in St Petersburg and was fascinated by the behaviour of men towards a lone woman at the bar. She was clearly waiting for someone, but it didn’t stop at least half a dozen hopefuls from trying their luck.
I’m writing this sitting in a luxurious shopping mall. Ralph Lauren is a few metres away, a breathtaking selection of sunglasses, shoes, a cinema, good food. What more could a professional hedonist desire? In other words, this environment provides everything material outside the circle. Except a relationship with the inside. I think, like Dostoyevsky, that a visit to the coffee shop is if no use unless one is with friends to argue with.