Fifteen years ago, a short but squat little book titled 14,000 Things to Be Happy About hit bookstores. In the book's opening pages, author Barbara Ann Kipfer said that the work was the fruit of a 20-year effort to write down the "little things" that made her happy.
The compact, simple volume has proven to be quite a welcome counterpoint to the public flow of information over the years, seeing as how just about every newspaper and TV news program nowadays could be subtitled 14,000 Things to Feel Crappy About.
I have passed by this book many times in the bookstore, but yesterday I finally decided to take it off the shelf and have a look. The way I figured it, if push came to shove I could only name maybe 2,000 things to be happy about, and I thought, why am I missing out on 12,000 others?
I found a lot to agree with in Kipfer's choices. Who among us doesn't have happy thoughts about making love, music, nature walks, rereading a good book, singing old hymns in church, small at-home dinners, opportunity, doing something against all odds, and "this thing called love?" For my personal taste, I was glad to see that Kipfer included such favorites as the Hallelujah Chorus, the Art Institute of Chicago, Bob and Ray and Kahlúa chocolate torte.
Of course, we aren't all made happy by the same things. I guess Kipfer is a different sort of person, or maybe she was running out of obvious ideas and had to stretch, but I find it hard to hop on the Happy Bus for salespeople, the ring of the telephone, loud radios, "morning mouth," listening to the news, cold hands, "food debris under a high chair after an attempted feeding," planning your future with the help of an Ouija board, grass stains, spittoons, Spam, sour milk, seeing a grown man cry, or Gene Shalit's mustache. Especially Gene Shalit's mustache.
A few entries just had me puzzled. Are we supposed to feel emotional one way or the other about brake fluid, isosceles triangles, dial tones, Naugahyde or "the suck of a pump?" And aren't a few of the items a bit dated? Is anyone truly made happy anymore on a consistent basis by mood rings, the Senate Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker, Polaroid Land cameras, shower microphone soap, Montgomery Ward, Tab soda commercials, 3 1/2" computer diskettes, AMC Pacers or "boogie dancing?"
In case Ms. Kipfer ever wants to release an updated and expanded version of the book titled 14,030 Things to Be Happy About, I offer her these potential additions free of charge:
* No TV series planned starring Pillsbury Doughboy
* Pouring hot oil on enemy combatants from high atop castle walls outlawed by Geneva Convention
* Barney show no longer inserted between features on U.S. to Asia flights
* Despite rumors to contrary, Jerry Mathers, Paul McCartney and Abe Vigoda still alive and well
* Euell Gibbons televised appeals to begin eating pine trees fell on deaf ears
* Scurvy eliminated in most North American fishing fleets
* Only 71 years until U.S. Tricentennial
* Proposed leisure suit revival killed because of high oil prices
* Treaty of Oregon setting U.S.-Canada boundary still preventing bloodshed after 159 years
* Country singers dying slow, lyrical deaths from TB a thing of the past
* Metric system and Esperanto never caught on in U.S.
* Thanks to commentary translation track by marine biologist on DVD set, Flipper's words now understandable
* Last insurance claims from Krakatoa eruption finally settled
* Despite decades of wobbling, Weebles still do not fall down
* "Dark Side of the Moon" now distributed to all world people groups, including prehistoric tribes in Asia
* Haggis still banned from most U.S. restaurants
* Cloning of zoo pandas will prevent embarrassing public ridicule over mating failures
* Widespread notoriety of classic "pull my finger" prank has greatly decreased its use
* Constitutional ammendment to add Millard Fillmore to Mount Rushmore failed
* Charlie Tuna's death wish still unrequited
* Lakehurst, N.Y., relatively free of fatal blimp accidents since 1936
* William Shatner finally has decent hairpiece
* Slow tectonic forces still centuries away from ripping Florida from U.S. mainland
* Goofus' behavior still considered bad example in "Goofus and Gallant" cartoons
* Reverse of Colorado commemorative quarter will not feature John Denver in granny glasses
* Cancerous test mice denied legal standing by lower courts
* General Francisco Franco still dead
* Banana Splits reunion postponed indefinitely
* Loss of U.S. control of Panama Canal has not prevented timely shipments of Yu-Gi-Oh cards to East Coast
* New series "Star Trek: Shore Leave Tiki Lounge" killed at pilot stage
Quote of the day:
"Once, craftsmen of all kinds were referred to as artisans, people who considered their work to be an art. There's no reason we can't create a life that allows us to approach our work and our lives in this way, as artisans –– people who, in the words of George Bellows, 'make life more interesting or beautiful, more understandable or mysterious, or probably in the best sense, more wonderful.'"
--Paul and Sarah Edwards
from The Practical Dreamer's Handbook