My last post is gone because I felt familiar tingles of anxiety about my writing. I’m still working through the idea of story-telling between two people and I felt uncomfortable publishing an articulation so incomplete. But if you have any thoughts to help me clarify it in my own mind, please leave a comment.

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“I wonder, sometimes, whether it is a perversity peculiar to my own mind or just the common lot of humanity to experience happiness mainly in retrospect… Maybe we mistakenly think we want “happiness,” which we tend to picture in very vague, soft-focus terms, when what we really crave is the harder-edged intensity of experience.”

This blog post is one of the most popular pieces on the New York Times today. There has been a lot more discussion of “happiness” lately from different blogs attached to big name media outlets.

I think if happiness is something we can only recognize in the past, then it’s little more than nostalgia. I think it’s true that the stories we tell ourselves changes with time, and sometimes retrospect helps us create a story about ourselves where we can shape happiness. But I find that stories I tell about myself create a distance where I place myself as a character removed from my present life. I don’t want to live in memories. I don’t want to live in a semi-fictional world I create from the stories that I tell about my past.

The “soft-focus terms” of happiness that this author refers to is not an intangible, unreachable form of happiness. I think it’s very real, but lacks the drama of “hard-edge intensity of experience”. It’s a tranquility formed more of it’s ability to feel full from the absence of intensity.

For Thoreau, happiness was stretching time, gliding in a boat. Taking control of the moment and drawing it out until you fill yourself in the present moment. I’ve had many of those moments this year – particularly, walking down Broadway, so engrossed in the people whom I’m with, that I’ve forgotten that I’m half-way to Midtown. Or walking along the edge of the river, whether it’s the Hudson, the Thames, or whatever cuts across Philadelphia, completely absorbed. (Why do I crave the same type of experience whatever city I’m in? What is it about rivers?)

I’ve also felt that intensity of experience, where you feel so full with emotion from something terrible that’s happened. But I think I can experience that same intensity of experience just being completely still and feeling utterly calm. It doesn’t require torturing yourself over unrequited…– that’s just masochistic.

Kreider’s post delves into much more than moments of happiness with other people, but it’s the part that’s struck me the most. But are there actually several gradations between the tranquil and tortured happiness that I interpreted from the post? Can you reconcile the essence of a tortured artist/lover, the archetype hero of these intense experiences, with…a monk/enlightened one? Or am I completely misinterpreting Kreider’s point?

It started as a pipe-dream, a fantasy, a hankering of nostalgia? The kind of thing where you say, “lets go steal a street sign,” but never quite get to it. The path of least resistance is not writing letters, but somehow I got started and it’s continued pretty naturally for a couple weeks. I’ve received several letters from two people and I hope to discover this medium of keeping in touch with more people.

I’ve always been an early adopter of high-technology communication. My first e-mail account, I opened when I was 9, I used blogs to connect with writers around the world when I was 15, and I was one of the first high school students to use Facebook in 2005. I’ve used everything from iChat to facebook chat, MSN to Skype. (Except twitter – I haven’t used it successfully and I don’t think its worth the effort right now.)

And then I started writing letters. I’ve written letters to only two people before. A girl who went to band camp in middle school and a pen-pal in India. Neither correspondence lasted a very long time. So this is really the first time I’m depending on my correspondence through letters to maintain my fledgling relationships.

And the curious thing is…its my best work. I am rather timely with letters and I spent time with them. And I’m not afraid to write what I feel, to pour myself into my words. I’m always afraid of what I write to other people because its all public record. Nothing digital is private anymore, and letters are one of the few places its safe to store yourself. Every letter is a gift – it feels likes Christmas every time I find one in my mailbox.
And I reread letters like it’s a book. But a collection of letters is a narrative between people, so I guess it’s a piece of literature in itself.

Does it sound like I’m romanticizing about letters? If I am, it’s not with an ounce of nostalgia because I had never had the chance to discover letters before. Since I’ve just started on what seems like a wonderful journey, I’m not sure what the downfalls are.

Well, there is one. Time moves much more quickly and the “I” that I am now is much more different than the “I” that I present myself in subsequent letters. So far, I haven’t been satisfied using letters as my sole means of communication because so much substance is lost in between.

But I am rediscovering a new way of writing. Its not a carefully edited (read: censored) image that I present, as is possible via web, but a rediscovery of myself as my words often surprise me. I’m not very true, because I have re-written almost all my letters, and have gone back and erased, edited etc. I wonder, did letter-writers share that anxiety? (before there was the option of email?.)

I’ll just end, with three cheers for the inked word.

From The Atlantic’s food blog:

“The temperature at which we eat a chocolate has a big impact on how we experience it. In hindsight of course this totally makes sense. I’ve been saying the same thing incessantly about good cheese and cured ham, etc. for decades. Eat ’em straight from the fridge and you miss at least half the flavor.”

I used to eat a lot more dark chocolate in London. Whether it was digestive cookies half-covered with chocolate or my weekly stock of the limited edition Peruvian square. Unfortunately, neither of them are available to me and I haven’t had the time to explore quality brands of dark chocolate available in New York.

I did though visit a place called the Chocolate bar, like a month ago, and tried a raspberry hot chocolate. (yes, that’s raaaaaaas-berry.) Tremendously good, just like the hot chocolate at the German strudel bar we went to in Bath, actually. (Its from a photo at the bar from which this blog’s header was created.) But I run into the problem, again, that the richness is just overpowering…

Anyways, also 2 ounces of dark chocolate a day can help lower blood pressure. Maybe that explains why mine is so low…

Oh, and the antioxidants make you happier. So I need to find those bars again. Or whole-wheat, chocolate covered digestives, mmm.

My darling readers, I have to admit something. We’re not exclusive. I’m having an affair with another blog. But it’s like my trophy wife (or husband?) – a public affair for the rest of the world to admire or chastise. Only does this blog hold my heart and soul. But I wanted to introduce you to my other love over at CNN Money. I admit, it’s taken me away a little bit, but I can be faithful  to two blogs at once, just you watch.

“But there are several humps to overcome before camel milk is widely available in the U.S. For starters, there aren’t many camels here. Those that are mainly work in circuses or live in zoos,” from Wall Street Journal.

Another problem, according to the WSJ, is that Camels are temperamental. “Camels can be cantankerous and persuading them to give up their milk can be part chore, part art. Camel experts say the animals are often ticklish around their udders and, without proper training, might lie down in the middle of being milked.” Camel

This article in the New York Times about a new type of magazine publishing scheme where anyone can publish an article and print it out themselves is the opposite extreme of how magazines currently operate. My first instinct is to drop everything in support of it, but such an extreme reaction is useless. No, let me mull it over for a bit. But in the mean time, read it for yourself.