A lot of our discussions have revolved around our ability to make ourselves happy, and how much of our happiness is genetically inclined. What makes people happy is truly dependent on environment, and what people expect out of life. I feel like in America, our happiness levels are much harder to get to because we are used to instant gratification all the time. The means of survival has no longer become a central issue in our everyday lives. We’ve gone past the necessity to survive, and towards the goal of thriving. Life is not about living anymore, it is striving towards making things “better”, which is in essence what will make us “happier”. Because we are always striving towards this goal, we don’t stop to think how we may be happy already. We seem to never be satisfied. Powers writes, “wanting is what having wants to recover”. What makes us tick is the ability to strive towards a certain goal, which gives us false sense that we know exactly what will make us happy is what actually makes us happy. People couldn’t understand why Thassa could have so much happiness when she had gone through so much. Thassa had the ability to focus on her present state, her present happiness. She had escaped the worries of having to survive, and now she could focus on thriving. She didn’t understand how people could be so unhappy when they had so many opportunities.
Right now, I am taking an anthropology class called Dance, Migration, and Exile, which focuses on how displaced people (like Thassa) try to cope with their hardships. Outsiders provide these people with food, water, and shelter, but the actual exiled persons have set up art and dance programs to help maintain their cultural heritage, and as a way for control over their uncontrollable situation. In the documentary War Dance, children in a refugee camp in Uganda had to watch their parents being killed, were separated from siblings and other family members, and even forced to kill other innocent people. Despite everything these children had to go through, when they were able to dance, they were genuinely happy. I think being exposed to all of those hardships gives these children a sense of what happiness really is, and that happiness is easier to find than we make it out to be. The simple joy of having a meal and sleeping in a soft bed is often suffocated by our preoccupation of what is the next thing that will make me happy? Thassa lived in the moment and cherished her ability to focus on something other than survival. We often forget that we have to balance thinking about the next best thing and the present best thing.
On another note, the ending of Generosity and the writing style as a whole was a hot topic in discussion on Thursday as well. I think I’m not satisfied by the ending because I felt like Powers was saying goodbye to Thassa and was acknowledging that she didn’t exist. This made the character less real to me, and therefore actually decreased my ability to imagine her beyond the book. It did feel like an ending, but of the character, not the book. I think what we crave in fiction is the ability to lose ourselves in someone else’s world, and Powers kept bringing us back to reality.