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the eighty-ninth key

…to a body beauty and to a soul wisdom and to an action virtue and to speech truth, but their opposites are unbefitting.


Happiness is always equated with doing more. It’s the competitive mentality that floods every social circle I am a part of- music ensembles, classrooms, even (and especially) in my friend groups. It’s a double-edged sword if I’ve ever seen one. Competition is healthy and vital to a lot of progress, I’m by no means naive enough to debate that. Fear that someone is going to kick you sideways at something you take pride in is a powerful form of motivation. It compels musicians to spend any time whatsoever on scales, writers to fill spiralbound notebooks with scribbling attempts, and athletes to go back to an unforgiving exercise. In each situation there is a distinct echo of the physical strain- muscles stretch and tear, ache, and ultimately strengthen. Yet there is always a set of rules determining success and always a greater level to reach. Any relief and happiness granted by achievement is only temporary, it seems, with the realization that in “leveling up,” you are now at the bottom of a whole new set of rules with daunting requisites.

There is such a shame associated with reveling in the static- that contentment is automatically interchangeable with complacency. However, I think that the obsessive drive for progress is just as much as an intoxicating illusion of a pastime. To always see up, but never achieve a filling happiness with life as you live it, and only see passing days as collateral loss towards an ever-expanding goal. It’s a distraction, I think, from a more noble and challenging self-discussion of loving the present.

I’m not saying that every hand you’re dealt is a winning one, and that you should settle for a poor one. But I am overwhelmed by a consumerist society that sees any stagnant behavior as mediocrity and any regression as failure, and although I don’t think I can do much to subvert or destroy it in an impacting way, I can make steps to defeat the mentality it creates in me.

“Some people protest carrying signs. Some people protest by making activist radical music. Sometimes people try to just make it through a day and not kill themselves, and that’s their activism for right then, because that’s all they have.”

-Kathleen Hanna

Although the initial image this post stems from has value, it makes me think more than anything else of Radiohead’s 1984-esque “Fitter. Happier.”- in which lyrics are a laundry list of requirements to meet some unspoken ideal/status-quo. Instead of doing more, I want to do the same, with an invested heart and present mind. We aren’t told enough that the things we do are “enough”- lately, I’ve sympathized most with Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa“- getting wrapped up in the song’s first two verses:

I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail
Yes I would, if I could, I surely would
I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would

Away, I’d rather sail away
Like a swan that’s here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound


The last line of the song, however, provides a keen insight:
I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet/Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would –

Instead of envy and feelings of inadequacy, there is a new-found appreciation of what is at hand (or foot).  If I am to be a man tied up to the ground, I vow to do so with the dirt in between my toes, relishing in every grain, instead of loathing myself in failed attempts to fly.


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