COLUMN: The power of aesthetic pleasures

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

<em>(Authors Note: The following column was submitted for publication before the tragic event in West, Texas.)</em>

It is weeks like this that make it hard for me to maintain my reputation as “Shiny Happy Harry.” Those who read this column and depend on my sunny, sanguine sustenance to infuse them with optimism heading into the weekend might be slightly disappointed in me.

In short, it was a lousy week.

The big picture was not so good. The terrorist bombings in Boston need not be brought into vivid detail here. Too many people, some way more talented than I, most…not so much, have already decided to write what they believe to be eloquent words regarding a calamity that is still ongoing. I realize in the “Twitterverse” we expect instant feedback on things that are not completed yet – including sentences – but perhaps we can save the sugary testimonies until after we know what exactly happened and why.

Back East, a trial in my hometown of Philadelphia is bringing forth powerful emotions. A doctor named Kermit Gosnell is on trial for murder. He ran a clinic that performed abortions. The macabre crimes he is accused of are so obscene that I would not describe them here even if my editor allowed me to do so.

What upsets me most is that this trial of unspeakable crimes is being used by political factions in the ongoing debate about the legality and morality of abortion rights. It is a disgrace and insult to the woman who lost her life and the babies who were victims of infanticide.

Personally, I have had better days. I will not get into details on that subject, but human foibles usually have silver linings to them. Mine have foreboding, limitless gray skies.

And speaking of gray skies, the weather this week, where I live, sucks. The forecast promises to be better, so that’s good. But Mother Nature has deceived me before.

No need to get out a thesaurus. The word crappy is more than adequate to describe the past few days.

So, what am I to do? How do I maintain my rosy outlook on life that my readers – and I pluralized that word on assumption only – have come to rely on?

I can answer that second question in one word: Schopenhauer.

I wonder how many of you know who Arthur Schopenhauer was. In my opinion he was one of the great geniuses ever to put ink onto paper.

Schopenhauer was a 19th Century German philosopher. A simplistic synopsis of his most fundamental philosophy suggests that he believed human existence was, in its basic form, a pessimistic nightmare. He believed that humans refuse to acquiesce to this nightmare by indulging in aesthetic pleasures.

And that is my secret to overcoming Hell Week. I accept that my existence is nothing more than a pathetically hideous exercise in futility and I enjoy myself the best I can with the tools at my disposal.

And you should too!

Avoid overexposure to the mundane details regarding Boston. Take a few minutes at the end of the day and find out what actually was learned. Then walk away. Do not look up Kermit Gosnell on the Internet. Avoid the local newscasts. Abstain from the 24/7 news stations.

First suggestion: sing a really bad song real badly. This Friday, I will be at the Eagles club in Logan, Utah for Karaoke night. And while the odds of me singing are infinitesimal, I generally enjoy the vibe of the room. Singing is such a great way to release bad emotions. I wish I was a better singer than I am. As I am, I love belting out Johnny Cash songs when I am alone.

Order in a pizza, or Chinese food. Stop worrying about your budget. Give the kitchen a break. Sit around the table with people you love and eat. To me, the term “comfort food” is a redundancy (Insert fat joke here). Few things in life are better than eating with someone you like to be in a room with.

Watch a movie from your childhood, or a TV show. Earlier this week, the film “Top Gun “was on cable. I was instantly time-warped back to the summer of ’86, when I was young, skinny and unaware of the social maladies that plagues adulthood. In a flash, I was once again a 16-year-old kid riding in my cousin’s powder blue Pinto, ready to invade Long Beach Island, N.J. and hit on every girl in sight.

What a great summer that was! And how interesting it is that “Top Gun” started out as the epitome of machismo to now become a case study in subliminal homoeroticism. If anyone born after 1986 wants to know when gay became cool, look them in the eye and say in a hyperbolically deep voice, “Top Gun!”

Or, you can take a walk. Contemplate a thought. Enjoy the sunshine, should there be any. Walk by a favorite building, or a tree in a park. Stretch your legs and think about happy days. It is such an easy thing to do.

Boston happened. It is altogether appropriate for us to remember the victims, honor their names and hope that everyone from President Obama to the Boston PD does everything in their power to find who did this and make them pay for their crimes.

For us to wallow in it, watch the videos over and over or listen to the sad stories of the dead and maimed will only dispirit us. Weeks like this can’t be avoided. And we show no disrespect to those afflicted by going on with our lives. We just go on.

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