Let’s call him Ralph because I certainly can’t use his real name. He is someone who never fails to shock, horrify and amuse me all at the same time. Ralph is a few years older than me. When I met him years ago I was talking about giving some young adults a little slack. I said that I would never want to be held responsible for something I said or did when I was 23. Ralph looked confused. I had known him just a short time, but I felt like I had his number. Without skipping a beat I said “but I guess you were never 23, really” and he burst out laughing. He did indeed come out of the womb a stressed out adult.
He was amazed that I read him so well; praised my intuition. Frankly, I don’t think it was all that challenging. A Serious Person, a Driven Person, an Intense Person. And a mostly Likeable Person who can laugh at himself, which to me is everything. Most of the time I enjoy talking to him, but sometimes I think he’s just plain nuts. I think that’s an image he cultivates.
I think of myself as a glass half-full person; Ralph is a glass half empty with cigarette ashes in it sort of thinker.
When he told me he had figured out the Unified Theory of the Universe, or something like that, I listened eagerly. Ralph has come to the conclusion that there is a finite amount of happiness in the world. Therefore, if I am happy, it is at the expense of someone else’s happiness. How’s that to knock your socks off? In one fell swoop Ralph has decided that not only are unhappy people completely helpless but that happy people are actually thieves, sneaking around in the night and slurping up happiness from other people.
I have a lot of questions about this concept. Let’s say I see a laughing child on a playground, while I myself am feeling sort of blue. I can take the kid easy and steal her happiness, but will it be enough?
Or do I need to steal happiness from 3 children in order to get enough for one adult? And if their mom managed to hang on to her happiness, will she persist in being happy with 3 miserable kids on her hands?
How about if someone is sleeping; if I steal their happiness will they start having bad dreams? Because I’m thinking it would be OK to borrow their happiness for just a few hours and get it back to them before they wake. Also, can one bequeath happiness to be sure no one outside the family gets it? If so, does it pass through tax-free?
Are there people in prison who are happy? Shouldn’t they be stripped of their happiness immediately upon entering the justice system? I don’t want to get carried away; misdemeanors don’t count, only convicted felons.
Ralph rolls his eyes at me when I ask these questions. He tells me I don’t understand. I tell him it’s OK, I don’t mind, because ignorance is bliss.