Dear Hope Nation,
It’s Sunday and, although the days slip one into another in these days, it’s still Sunday. For some of us, that means a time of worship, prayer and reflection. For some of us, a day of rest. For some, a day of football. For me? Sunday is a day for stories.
The following excerpt from a much longer work requires little introduction. All you need to know is Clayton Clevinger is the first-person narrator and Shiny is a boy he’s just met (who will go on to become his only and, therefore, best friend. Enjoy or not as the mood suits you. After all, it’s Sunday.
“But you said your aunt was mad,” I said.
“Yes, I did. You’re quite right about that. She is mad, but not about anything. She is mad in the old sense of the word. She suffers from a rare form of mental illness that causes her to be happy all the time. Imagine the pain of being always happy, no matter what. You can watch the news and see a hurricane batter some little town, and all you think is, ‘I’ll bet they can rebuild that even nicer than before’ or ‘Well, at least now the Red Cross will have a chance to do their best.’ If you lose your leg, you think, ‘Well, at least I’ve got one good leg. Some people don’t have that.’ It’s horrible being so happy, as I’m sure you can imagine.”
“I guess,” I said.
“When I think of the fun I’ve had being angry at people or being disappointed by situations or just cursing life in general, and know Aunt Margaret never knows the pleasures of anger, it makes me so sad inside. And then when I’m enjoying being sad and sorry for myself, I get angry my poor aunt never ever gets to curl up in a blanket of sorrow and throw herself a good old fashioned pity party. It’s just awful, really.
“Like halitosis or intestinal distress,” he continued, “her illness is in many ways harder on those around her. Seeing that poor thing be so happy, day after day, just breaks my heart. She’s been to psychiatrists and psychologists and phrenologists and even a paleontologist, but there’s nothing that can be done.
“While the rest of us can enjoy a broad pallet of emotions–anger, fear, sorrow–poor Aunt Margaret is stuck with cheerful, heedless, lighthearted and content. Imagine if the only emotional forecast you had was chipper today, chirpy tomorrow with a one hundred percent chance of can’t complain for the weekend.
“My grandparents are dead,” Shiny continued, “so poor Aunt Margaret has what’s called an ‘orphan disease.’ The big drug companies are willing to spend millions of dollars on antidepressants, but not one penny on depressants, which is what the poor woman desperately needs.
“The doctors have tried everything from daily screenings of war atrocities to listening to sad music to oral readings about good love gone bad, but there’s nothing to be done.
“And, of course, there’s also the pronoia, which would drive anyone crazy.”
“Pronoia?” said I. “I don’t think I know what that is.”
“Not many people do,” replied Shiny. “And they should be thankful about that. I wish I’d never had to hear of it.
“You’ve probably heard of its opposite, ‘paranoia,’ which is perfectly healthy. In a world like ours, it just makes sense to watch your back and assume that people are out to get you. Instead of fearing that everyone wants to hurt her, though, Aunt Margaret lives with a sneaking suspicion people are working together in a secret conspiracy to make her happy. Aunt Margaret, if I let her, would hug everyone she meets and thank them for their hard work. The authorities would have to lock her up.
“Think of it, Clayton—that was your name, wasn’t it? —Clayton? You probably know from math class that when you multiply two negative numbers together you get a positive number. What they don’t tell you is that when the positives start multiplying, as they have for Aunt Margaret, it’s a very negative situation for everyone.”
I suppose there’s a germ of an idea there that’s worth exploring. After all, whatwouldlife be like with no negative feelings and a tingling sensation of conspiracy to make you happy? Worth exploring, but not today. It’s Sunday.
You matter. I matter. We matter.