Big Ideas.


In several public presentations, Philosopher Daniel Dennett has offered his own description of a path to happiness. He advises to “Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.”

Lewis Hyde sketches similar path to happiness in his book The Gift. He notes how artists are awakened by the work of a master, and how that awakening compels artists to labor at a discipline until they can contribute something that perpetuates the work into other hearts.

Happiness sounds like hard work.

Neither author is glorifying the puritan view that toiling away in the fields will bring lasting satisfaction. Hyde even draws a distinction between “work” and “labor” to avoid this confusion. Instead, these men are pointing us to a vocation of ideas, a culture of exchange, and a community of increased attention.

I wish everyone reading these words could quietly visit an artist colony. I bet most readers have been to both universities and libraries — the place where the metaphysical and epistemological big ideas are being explored. Artist colonies are where the metaphysical and aesthetic big ideas are alive.

Have fun, and talk to an artist who has been to MacDowell, Yaddo, Ucross, the American Academy, Taos… or any place similar. Ask that artist if they were happy there.

It is fun to admire the brave souls who strive to create something genuinely new.

It is a honor to help those places keep the door open. Occasionally, I have the pleasure to sit in a roomful of souls that know how precious that daring soul is and who strive to keep the doors open. And to collaborate with them.

It is enough to make a person feel happy.