17. Feb, 2018

“What is happiness, anyhow? … so impalpable — a mere breath, an evanescent tinge…”

A Placid Ecstasy: Walt Whitman’s Most Direct Reflection on Happiness

BY MARIA POPOVA

A Placid Ecstasy: Walt Whitman’s Most Direct Reflection on Happiness

“One can’t write directly about the soul,”, Virginia Woolf wrote“Looked at, it vanishes.” So with happiness — as slippery as “the soul,” as certain to crumble upon deconstruction. Philosophers have contemplated its nature for millennia, psychologists have attempted to unearth its existential building blocks and delineate its stages. And yet at the heart of it remains a mystery — wildly various across lives and within any one life, a fickle visitation unbeckonable by external lures, as anyone who has sorrowed on a sunny-skied day knows. “There’s no accounting for happiness,” Jane Kenyon wrote in her sublime poem about the ultimate elusion“or the way it turns up like a prodigal who comes back to the dust at your feet having squandered a fortune far away.”