Why be Happy When you Could be Normal?

I just finished reading “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” by Jeanette Winterson. The book is about Winterson’s childhood, her lifelong struggle to find happiness and her tumultuous relationship with her mother. What I loved most about the book was not so much the story but the flashes of wisdom embedded in the story; powerful sentences that forced me to reflect on my own experience and have interesting discussions with some friends.

On feelings and thoughts
“There is still a popular fantasy, long since disproved by both psychoanalysis and science, and never believed by any poet or mystic, that it is possible to have a thought without a feeling. It isn’t. When we are objective we are subjective too. When we are neutral we are involved. When we say ‘I think’ we don’t leave our emotions outside the door. To tell someone not to be emotional is to tell them to be dead.”

The quote above sparked an hour long discussion with a psychologist friend of mine. Can we truly have an objective thought devoid of emotion? Or are all of our thoughts intertwined with emotions?

On feelings avoidance
“I know our feelings can be so unbearable that we employ ingenious strategies – unconscious strategies – to keep those feelings away. We do a feelings-swap, where we avoid feeling sad or lonely or afraid or inadequate, and feel angry instead. It can work the other way, too – sometimes you do need to feel angry, not inadequate; sometimes you do need to feel love and acceptance, and not the tragic drama of your life. It takes courage to feel the feeling – and not trade it on the feelings-exchange, or even transfer it altogether to another person.”  

Another quote about how much emotions, or avoiding emotions, control and influence behaviors. It is ok to feel sad or lonely or scared, but it is not ok to be consumed by that emotion and not move past it.

On time This quote brings to mind the saying “it seems like only yesterday” because based on our perception it feels like only yesterday. We experience life as a series of intertwined and overlapping events as opposed to a linear sequence. 
So Why be Happy When you Could be Normal? is a nice easy read. Though the story is pretty sad,  those little reflections made it enjoyable. 

On education
“I did not realize that when money becomes core value, then education drives towards utility without the life of the mind will not be counted as a good unless produces measurable results.

Should education be solely based on utility or should it be a transfer of the culmination of aggregated human knowledge? I have had this discussion with some friends who majored in liberal art. As a business major, I am inclined to say that education should be a combination of both utility and knowledge. While education should never be completely utility based, and should include art, philosophy, history, humanities, it is important that education provide a means of supporting oneself. If business majors have to hustle to find a job to support themselves, art majors have to hustle 10 times more than that to pursue their art. What aggravates me is the sense of entitlement and laziness of some liberal art majors who do not want to put in the gut wrenching effort it takes to truly be an artist and be self reliant.

On time“I measure time as we all do, and partly by the fading body, but in order to challenge linear time, I try and live in total time. I recognize that life has an inside as well as an outside and that events separated by years lie side by side imaginatively and emotionally.” 

This quote brought to mind the saying ” it seems like only yesterday” when an experience feels so vivid as if it happened just yesterday. We experience time more as intertwining and overlapping moments rather than a linear progression of events.

Why be Happy when you Could be Normal? is a good read. Though the story is a bit sad, those reflective parts make it worthwhile.