Morris: Happiness Defined Grammatically
by Leo Morris
I was spending a quiet day amusing myself with harmless diversions. I played a little guitar. I read a few chapters in a mystery novel. I watched part of an old movie on cable. I gave a Sunday newspaper the once-over. I studied my recipe for breakfast quiche to see if I still wanted to use Old Bay as the main seasoning (I did).
I thought I was having fun.
That’s when I stumbled across an article it would have been better to skip. Indiana, according to a breakdown by WalletHub, ranks only 37th out of 50 for “Most Fun States in America.” We apparently score low on the all-important “Entertainment & Recreation” and “Nightlife” scales.
We have a pathetic number of restaurants per capita and practically no access to marinas or national parks. We don’t have major attractions, ideal weather, adequate fitness centers or skiing facilities. We don’t even have enough bars and our “last call” times are ridiculously early.
No things to do in the daytime, no places to go in the nighttime. How very sad. Talk about a splash of cold water on my childlike illusion of happiness.
But, not to fear. The Indianapolis Star was there to rescue me from the depths of depression.
WalletHub had it all wrong, the Star advised. For one thing, it ignored special or annual events such as the Indianapolis 500 and our pro football and basketball teams and that special frenzy known as Hoosier Hysteria. For another, it measured only the quantity of restaurants, ignoring the superior quality of our eateries.
Take that, California (No. 1)! Eat our dust, New York (No. 2)!
The Star, unfortunately, got it no more right than did WalletHub. By arguing that WalletHub overlooked Indiana’s fun things to do and places to go, it accepted WalletHub’s basic proposition that fun does indeed consist of Things to Do and Places to Go. That is called a faulty premise, from which, we were taught in Logic 101, no valid conclusions can be drawn.
Somewhere between the Buddhism of Charles Schultz (happiness is a warm puppy or sleeping in your own bed or walking in the rain or whatever else fulfills you) and the cynicism of Mac Sledge in “Tender Mercies” (“I don’t trust happiness. Never did, never will”) is the simple truth that happiness is more the journey than the destination and that all our journeys are personal ones.
Once in high school, a teacher asked us what our goals in life were. Put in a contrarian mood by all my classmates who offered various versions of saving or conquering the world, I answered something like, “I shall live in a cabin on a lake and pursue small enthusiasms.”
That was back when we only had to defend our tastes to one dissenter at a time. My choices for diversions were soul-recharging necessities, yours were a mindless waste of time, and we could argue about them for hours at a time.
Today, cable networks, the Internet and social media have us living in each other’s back pockets, and I can’t noodle on the guitar or fiddle with a recipe without feeling that I’m either cheating myself or defying the haughty arbiters of universal fun.
I’m sure you noticed, by the way, that I wrote I “shall” live in a cabin on a lake. It is sadly true that the difference between “will” and “shall” has all but disappeared in modern usage. But there is still a grammatically justifiable reason to observe the distinction, and occasionally I like to sneak in one of those finer points just to annoy people.
It amuses me.
And if you think that makes me a pedantic, anal-retentive snob, I hope you scream and pull your hair and call me a sneering, condescending jerk.
If it amuses you.
Are we having fun yet?
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is this year’s winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leo’s Breakfast Quiche
3 lbs. pre-cooked bacon, crumbled
1 pkg. shredded hash browns, thawed
1 14-oz. pkg. shredded Swiss cheese
1 16-oz. pkg. shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 large eggs
¾ cup half-and-half
1 stick butter, melted
1½ tsp. Old Bay seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
Grease or cooking-spray a 9×13 pan. Press hash browns into bottom and up sides to form crust. Salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with melted butter. Bake in 425-degree oven for up to half an hour, until the potatoes start to brown at the edges. Let cool. Fill with alternating layers of cheeses and bacon until there is none left. (You can do all this the day of or do the night before and cover with foil in the refrigerator.) Mix together eggs, half-and-half and Old Bay and pour mixture into the pan. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes to half an hour until set. (You can get away with 2 lbs. of bacon if you must. Crisp it up for a few seconds in the microwave for a better taste and texture.)