Diamond-Cut Life

More Joy, Less Stuff

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Happiness In The High Desert

June 12th, 2009 by Alison · No Comments · community, entertainment, lifestyle, money, nature, Oregon

What did I do last night and how happy did it make me? I went running in the high desert, sang and got people to sing with me — for a 9 on my 1-10 scale of happiness.2538647591_e2bef537da

I’m in Bend, Oregon, for a conference on public participation. To the right is the type of  beautiful country I got to run through just by stepping out of the parking lot. I wish you could smell the air here, fragrant with sage and Ponderosa pine, and see the branch of the Deschutes River flowing a few dozen yards from my room where I’m writing right now. In Oregon we’re lucky to still be connected to the land.

When I kicked off our open-mike session after dinner, I said, “I’m going to lead us in an ancient form of public participation: singing. If we’d been together thousands of years ago, this is what we would have done for fun at night. And we can still do it. All of you know the chorus of this song, so sing along.” I strummed the opening chords of American Pie on my guitar, and we were off and running. The group was right there with me, people who largely hadn’t sung in years. Later on, a woman told me she had had tears in her eyes as we sang the choruses together, she had felt such a spirit of community in the room.

I write about experiences like these because I see the diamond-cut life (a life high in joy, low in consumption) as based on universal truths. I’m driven to figure out: what is true, and creaes happiness, for everyone, of any background or income level? Attending the concerts of musical stars, for example, costs quite a bit, and is only available to certain people. But running on high desert trails and singing with others are things I did, joyfully, in the many years I was dollar-poor – and they make me just as happy now that I’m not poor at all. It’s a truism, not a myth, that many of the best things in life are free. It doesn’t cost anything to sing.

Well, that’s not completely true. It cost me some nerve, and some nervousness, to get up in front of fifty-odd people with my guitar. I could have forgotten some lyrics, and I’m not the best at tuning my guitar. But I have a policy in my life against self-consciousness, of assuming things are not about me, but about the whole, the greater good. And I’m sure it cost some of my fellow singers some nerve to sing for the first time in years. But many of them indicated it made them happy.

Do-it-yourself entertainment and the diamond-cut life in general may cost us more effort than being passive spectators. Yet they make us richer and happier. And they remain available to us across time and cultures, including if we’re dollar-poor.

A few sidenotes: I’m deeply impressed by Janet Johnson, a social media expert and consultant who gave an excellent presentation yesterday morning. Last night at dinner when they served blueberry cobbler with ice cream I held fast to my decision of no ice cream this summer (happily, not white-knuckling it). This afternoon I’ll drive my hybrid back home to Portland . . . though in the absolute best of all worlds I could forego the car, practice the very best diet and locomote through this beautiful, wild high desert country with my own body. Singing. With others.

photo courtesy of Tim Gallivan

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