What Today Brings
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus
Albert Camus was a French philosopher and writer known for the rise of a movement known as Absurdism. The recognition of the ‘absurd’ nature of our existence and the impossible task of making sense of it was at the heart of the philosophy that garnered Camus the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. He disagreed with contemporary and fellow Nobel Prize winner, Jean Paul Sartre who was a pioneer of Existentialism and Nihilism, the latter being the belief that because of the absurd nature of life there were no rules and no inherent morality. In light (or dark) of that fact, people had no responsibility to anyone or anything other than themselves.
Albert Camus was of the mind that while life can be ridiculous it is not meaningless. There is beauty and purpose and one should always search for the meaning buried in the chaos. He did not participate in the societal malaise found in his post-war France. In fact, he stated in his essay The Rebel that his whole life was dedicated to opposing the philosophy of Nihilism while still exploring individual freedom.
I dabbled in a fascination for Sartre and Existentialism as a college student first learning these big ideas. It seemed particularly freeing that there were no consequences to any action because there was no one to answer to, seen or unseen. Now that I have grown up and lived through my share of selfishness, I realize a life of selflessness is much more desirable.
As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Several teachers appeared in my life a few years ago and we called ourselves, “The Happiness Group,” and in the fall of 2012, we met weekly at a farmhouse in Woodford County to discuss life and happiness. Born of a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin that was featured on Oprah’s Book Club, we read chapters and tried to integrate the simple suggestions about living a happy life. The author suggests such simple things as taking time to be silly, going to bed early and deciding to tackle that one thing you have been wanting to do for years and actually doing it!
Our group consisted of Lexington disc jockey, Stacy Yelton; Berea-based artist, Deb Chenault; Versailles gallery owner, Sandy Davis; a social worker named Annie Bassoni,; development and communications director at Hindman Settlement School, Jean Marie Hibbard; and Kopana Terry, a rock star turned UK librarian. It was quite an eclectic group. I don’t think we ever made it through the whole book but we did make it through that section of our complicated lives with a few more tools toward happiness.
The Happiness Group has dissipated in that we now only meet a few times a year for a meal but we are still growing in numbers. We still have the same passion for living and when one of us finds a kindred spirit, they are introduced to the group. This is how I met Marcella Rose Christensen and I would like to tell you about her.
Marcie is another shining example of womanhood that I have met since returning to Versailles. She served as the Artist Liaison for the Francisco Arts Festival for six years. Under her watch it was named among Style Magazine’s Top Ten Art Festivals in the Country for three years. I came to find out that this was just one of Marcie’s passion projects she has filled her life with.
Marcie is the leader of a Dining for Women Chapter in Midway. This ‘giving circle’ of women has over four hundred chapters across the United States and the local Midway chapter has been meeting for six years. They come together for a potluck dinner and donate what they may have spent at a restaurant to organizations around the world that empower women and girls in developing countries. What an extraordinary way to give of your time and resources while strengthening bonds with neighbors.
Lately my friend Marcie is planning for a new happiness project that again inspires and awes. After surviving cancer, this mother of two grown daughters is off to travel the world. She is going to Kenya and Tanzania with the Earth and Spirit Center, a small group out of Louisville led by Father Joe Mitchell who spoke recently at Pisgah Academy Day. His teachings weave contemplative Christian practices with Buddhist meditation. On his latest mission, he has gained the trust and wonderful company of Marcie as the group visits an orphanage outside Nairobi. The orphanage is David Sheldrake’s Wildlife Trust, David and his wife Daphne have rescued over 150 baby elephants, giraffes and rhinos. Marcie is now the proud foster mother of a baby elephant named Emoli. She will support the baby for up to 10 years until he is ready to be reintroduced into the wild herd.
Mark Twain said, “Sanity and Happiness are an impossible combination.” I agree. There is no particular formula but to follow your heart. One thing I know for sure, Marcella Rose Christensen is happy. I plan to think of her extraordinary example for the rest of my life. Marcie is not searching for happiness as Albert Camus warned against, she is living it. Neither is she searching for the meaning of life, she is making meaning out of her life.
Learn more at Erinchandlerauthor.com – Come visit me this weekend at the Kentucky Book Fair, Saturday, Nov.18, 9:00 to 4:00 at the Kentucky Horse Park.