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What Odysseus’s misery on Ogygia teaches us about happiness

Seems it’s Happy Friday at diva Ann Althouse’s blog.  She led off this morning at 8:20 AM related Robert Louis Stevenson’s thoughts about the underrated duty of being happy, then 19 minutes later quoted La Rochefoucauld’s quip about happy people rarely correcting their faults (guess that means Bill Maher is one happy fella. Dan, he said, “rarely,” not “never.” –Ed.).

Just six minutes after that, she asked, if there were a “happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful” and answered with a link of her own.  Later, she referenced a happiness bank before quoting my friend David Boaz to answer the question whether Rick Santorum hates freedom and happiness.  Her next piece led with the quotation, “I think he showed me a cover of a magazine that said ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun.’”  She then proceeded to contrast, “Romney’s Religion of Happiness” to “Gingrich’s Religion of Grievance.

And soon would lament “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.”  As compensation perhaps, she cited a Gallup poll finding “that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older…”  “Happiness,” she offered in a subsequent post, “is more like knowledge than like belief.”  And listed, “5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won’t).

She would soon furnish a clever quip, “I have told myself a hundred times that I would be happy if I were as stupid as my neighbor, and yet I would want no part of that kind of happiness.”  Finally, she found “the secret of happiness and virtue — liking what you’ve got to do.”

It was most serendipitous that I would linger on Ann’s blog today.  Perhaps the happiness drew me in.   You see, I’ve been re-reading the Odyssey and today revisited Odysseus’s misery on the island of Ogygia, by conventional wisdom a straight man’s paradise, beautiful beaches, distant from the outside world, his wife far away, an eternally youthful and nubile nymph eager to bed him.  And yet when first we see the hero, he suffers terribly amidst all these sensual pleasures, “his sweet life flowing away/with the tears he wept for his foiled journey home”.

He longed for his mortal wife, Penelope, preferring her aging beauty to the ageless embrace of a busty immortal.  That great king would not find happiness until Penelope recognized him as her husband, the goddess Athena then prolonging the night of their reunion so they could both lose themselves in love and share each other’s stories.

Perhaps it’s the ability to share stories which makes for our happiness in this world.  And for real marriage.

Maybe that explains in part, the paradox of declining female happiness.  Fewer have chosen marriage.  An important point to make in the case for gay marriage.  And all too often avoided by all too many of its advocates.



  1. Calypso.

    And of course, what am I watching now? Jason and the Argonauts.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — March 16, 2012 @ 9:39 pm - March 16, 2012

  2. The Harryhausen version?

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — March 16, 2012 @ 9:58 pm - March 16, 2012

  3. ” An important point to make in the case for gay marriage”

    wouldn’t the type of stories play a part in happiness? wouldn’t the stories two men be different from the stories of two women or the stories between a man and woman?

    Comment by The Griper — March 16, 2012 @ 10:03 pm - March 16, 2012

  4. Good point, Griper, the stories would be different, but the sharing of them is what matters.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — March 16, 2012 @ 10:14 pm - March 16, 2012

  5. The Harryhausen version?

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — March 16, 2012 @ 9:58 pm – March 16, 2012

    But of course. It’s a Harryhausen evening; Clash of the Titans is on now, and I continue to ponder what people find attractive about Harry Hamlin.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — March 16, 2012 @ 10:16 pm - March 16, 2012


    Remember the day I went to see the movie. Michael ontkean was the hot one, and many loved Kate Jackson. . .

    Comment by rusty — March 17, 2012 @ 1:54 am - March 17, 2012

  7. ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun.’”

    And there is a certain pleasant taste to FFF. Although, it’s been a while since I’ve used my Enfield. She used to get pretty hot.

    Comment by TGC — March 17, 2012 @ 3:00 am - March 17, 2012

  8. If one does not develop the habit of being happy, it is really very difficult to actually be happy and sustain happiness.

    Comment by Heliotrope — March 17, 2012 @ 8:32 am - March 17, 2012

  9. That _Cracked_ article is not bad. “sitting around pondering [your happiness] is apparently what [messes] you up… taking the focus off your happiness is what makes happiness possible.”

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 17, 2012 @ 12:03 pm - March 17, 2012

  10. Well, NDXXX, in that movie, I found Harry Hamlin terribly sexy, one of my first teen crushes. . .

    Guess that’s why there’s vanilla an chocolate. . . . Each of us has his own tastes for masculine beauty.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — March 17, 2012 @ 12:16 pm - March 17, 2012

  11. The two times I recall Obama speak of his daughters, both times concerned their vaginas.

    First, he didn’t want them “punished” by a baby that had managed to get implanted through the vagina.

    The second instance was hoping they, like Sandra Fluke, would have the poise and personal stamina to have a vagina monologue in speaking truth to power.

    If they were twins and Bill Maher were to name them, wouldn’t he dub them **** and **** while the whole liberal world went into howling laughter?

    And just what is a community organizer anyway? In the case of women, someone who rounds them up and pimps their vaginas for government cash.

    Now do you see how Rush Limbaugh got too close to the truth and had to be carpet bombed as a result?

    Now, understand, I prefer to leave the president’s daughters out of this. They are off limits. But, unfortunately, the Bamster, himself, dragged them out in both examples in his vagina wars.

    Indeed, women are infinitely more than their vaginas. But somehow, the left has reduced them to pregnancy machines which need to have the hand of government all over their vaginas to keep them primed for lust, but protected from the biological imperative that results from introducing sperm through the vagina. Gays who worry about having government in the bedroom have nothing on women who have the government perched as exterminators in their vaginas.

    Comment by Heliotrope — March 17, 2012 @ 12:17 pm - March 17, 2012

  12. Comment for Republican War on Women? 🙂

    If they were twins and Bill Maher were to name them…

    If they were Palin’s twins, you mean. Or (say) Breitbart’s.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 17, 2012 @ 12:22 pm - March 17, 2012

  13. Teen crush. . .how long were you in the closet BDB?

    Jus’ joshin

    Happy St Paddys day

    Comment by rusty — March 17, 2012 @ 12:37 pm - March 17, 2012

  14. thanks, ILC, I done plopped my comment in the wrong pond!

    Comment by Heliotrope — March 17, 2012 @ 3:36 pm - March 17, 2012

  15. Mythology is booooorrrriiinnnnggg.

    Comment by davinci — March 17, 2012 @ 8:05 pm - March 17, 2012

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