Among the piles of papers on my desk is a small pile of papers, each bundled folded in half down the middle. This is my reading pile.
Some years ago, I got tired of the amount of paper wasted in printing a typical article or page off the web. I started clipping the text of articles I found on the net, pasting it into a blank Word document, and formatting it into two columns of 9-point Times Roman. It seemed to be a handy size for reading and to conserve paper. I eventually saved the format as a template (Reading.dot) to make the process faster.
At least once a week, when I'm in the office, I surf through a few favorite sites such as Arts & Letters Daily
, collect up the text of a few articles, and print off one of these reading copies. Usually I take one down with me when I go to lunch, in case I find myself dining alone. I loathe eating by myself with nothing else to do, though I suspect some would say I should savour the food and enjoy the moment of quiet.
From AL Daily
this week, I collected this article
on happiness, sparked by Daniel Gilbert's tour for his book, Stumbling on Happiness
. In it, Gilbert remarks, "It's the frequency and not the intensity of positive events in your life that leads to happiness, like comfortable shoes or single malt scotch."
On one hand, this sounds pretty insipid. My first response was, "This sounds like something I'd find in a catalog or one of those insufferable magazines like Real Simple
that celebrate the joys of a life enriched with 800-count Egyptian cotton sheets and artisanal olive oil."
But then I remembered a thought I had just the day before. I was sitting in a very long and slow line of cars caused by major work on the route I usually take to work. "I can't wait for summer," I thought. The volume of traffic here plummets for at least six weeks starting in early July, and it's really nice to zip up to the autoroute, slip onto it for two exits, and pop off again, arriving at work in about ten minutes or so. If the weather's sunny, the night cool just burning off, the grass and trees vivid with green, it's a very pleasant way to start the work day. A little thing like that gives me a big boost. Not just as I'm experiencing it--the knowledge that a good moment isn't too, too far away also keeps me from ruminating over lousy experiences too long.
This may just be a reflection of an optimistic temperament. The same situation probably does nothing for someone in a seriously depressed state. But insipid or not (and, by the way, speaking as one who bought a set of 800-count Egyptian cotton sheets on sale a few years ago--they really are great to sleep on), Gilbert's statement is true for me. Why, just heading off to lunch yesterday with an interesting article on happiness to read helped make it a better day.
The Toronto Star
article led me on to Gilbert's book site
, which includes a few excerpts. I like this quote in particular:
But as bald men with cheap hairpieces always seem to forget, acting as though you have something and actually having it are not the same thing, and anyone who looks closely can tell the difference.