Depressingly Happy Endings

Why is it that I find myself so amused by pessimists like Lemony Snickets and Puddleglum and so depressed by radical optimists who say humans are going to be happy for the first time ever? For the first time in my life I completely understand Cecily Cardew when she sighs and says, “I don’t like happy endings; they make me so depressed.”

Except that I do like happy endings.

I just also enjoy a healthy dose of looking at reality through the lens of people who see the ending that isn’t so happy.

I’m feeling a contradiction. (What is sad can make me happy and what is happy can make me sad.) I would call it more of a paradox. Reality happens to be full of those.

I like people who are able to make paradoxes spin like tops, philosophers like Chesterton and writers like Wilde who are witty. I am rather amused at people today who smile condescendingly and say, “Isn’t he playing so nicely with words?” without even realizing just how powerful the meanings of the words are. Words are dangerous. You try playing with them. You trying playing with ideas about reality–what makes people happy or sad–and you’ll see that sometimes it bites back. Why?

Here is the thing: you need sadness to have happiness. Lemme bring in a little Chesterton at this point:

“An optimist could not mean a man who thought everything right and nothing wrong. For that is meaningless; it is like calling everything right and nothing left. Upon the whole,  I came to the conclusion that the optimist thought everything good except the pessimist, and that the pessimist thought everything bad, except himself” (Orthodoxy 71). While I am not 100% convinced that I agree with his definition, I think his point is helpful.

While I still can’t say for certain, I do believe that being brave enough to face the bad side of life is sometimes helpful for claiming that the good side of life is worth living well.