Happiness is not found in acceptance from others
I’ve come across a little book I hadn’t perused in years. It’s called “Rotten Reviews: A Literary Companion,” and it is a veritable lifeline of inspiration for those wandering dangerously close to the unappreciated edge.
The book is a compilation of all those less-than-inspiring responses to the anguished efforts of authors, including one Herman Melville, who was cited for “so much trash belonging to the worst school of Bedlam literature.”
Hardly what Moby’s maker had in mind when he put the last period on his epic and sat back to read the raves.
Jonathan Swift, another writer of some worth, who put a good deal of time, one can assume, into his “Gulliver’s Travels” only to have it called “evidence of a diseased mind and lacerated heart.” Yeow.
Nevertheless, these two and millions more like them, did what they felt compelled to do, and that alone is all that matters.
It is not just authors, by the way, who can take comfort in the fact that critics can sometimes be critically wrong. We less-than-famous folks can find guidance from these writers’ confident commitments.
For instance, if adulation or even appreciation is our paramount need, we are probably going to be terribly disappointed. Accomplishment alone makes for better motivation.
The achievement of personal goals promises far richer rewards than the applause of others. When such is the case we are freed up to do anything we darn well want, unimpeded by others’ lack of vision, interest or understanding.
So, the next time you’re feeling as if your work is in vain, remember that Ralph Waldo Emerson was once described by a critic as a “hoary-headed and toothless baboon.” Or that Shakespeare was written off as “a drunken savage,” and D.H. Lawrence was once accused of having “a diseased mind.”
I don’t know who described these great artists in such lowly terms and that is precisely the point.
Feeling sorry for yourself? Unappreciated? Do you think the rest of the world is both ignorant and arrogant in not recognizing such a valuable asset as you?
I suspect most of us, at one time or another, and probably more often than that, have felt this way.
Perhaps it was the preparation of a really sumptuous meal only to watch in horror as it is gobbled down in seconds without a murmur of thanks.
Or maybe you’ve been working for years to put your kids through school and Junior has decided to drop out in his senior year to spend some time “just chillin.'”
Well, take heart. You are definitely not alone. I doubt there is anyone anywhere who hasn’t felt they’ve been taken advantage of, their good intentions ignored or their worthy motives dismissed.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the most important element to my own happiness is to discover what I enjoy doing and then just doing it.
Simple enough, of course, but there are some potential roadblocks to the process. For instance, if you are dependent on the approval of others for your happiness, you are probably bound for the S.S. Disappointment. If you can’t be happy unless others are happy about your happiness, you’re probably not going to be too happy.
I believe it was that great philosopher, Davy Crockett, who said, “Be always sure you’re right, then go ahead!”
What we can’t be so sure of is whether anyone will be following our lead or applauding our actions.
Come to think of it, I’ve never actually finished “Moby Dick”
Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column for the Summit Daily News, which he always reads to the end. He can be reached at
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