CHARLOTTE LAWS - DREAM AND ACHIEVE TOGETHER
History, Happiness and Colin Quinn
By Charlotte Laws
Is there a connection between happiness
and History--the tedious, sleep-inducing subject that I was forced to study year
after year in school? I was generally a good student, but I remember the “D”
on my fourth grade report card as if it was a pimple on my chin.
Is there a connection between happiness and History--the tedious, sleep-inducing subject that I was forced to study year after year in school? I was generally a good student, but I remember the “D” on my fourth grade report card as if it was a pimple on my chin.
My dislike of
History did not wane when I began college at
This brings me to
Colin Quinn, the magically funny and devastatingly handsome (but since I am
married, I naturally did not notice) comedian. He was performing his brilliant
one-man show “Long Story Short” to a sold-out crowd in
In addition to nonstop laughs on historical topics, the show offered profound insights. I was particularly intrigued by Colin’s observation that (the pursuit of) “happiness” is part of Declaration of Independence, yet “no other country has made it their policy to cheer people up.” How ironic, I thought. The one country that aims to link history with happiness is largely comprised of folks who believe studying the past is dreary and a waste of time.
leads to ignorance. According to a Newsweek poll, 29 percent of
According to even more studies, Europeans outperform Americans on “historical facts about the world”; and there are traditional explanations for this: our broken educational system, the ever-widening income gap in the U.S., the abundance of dull and somniferous textbooks, the more intellectually oriented European culture and the fact that America is a large land, separated from most other nations by a whole lot of water. There is an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality--it is difficult to care about stuff so far away.
But I have a final theory, which I call “cut your losses and run.” Since Americans start the race 200 paces behind Europeans, why try in the first place? As a nation, we feel disadvantaged historically speaking, so why further embarrass ourselves? We are arguably reluctant to expend effort. We are a new country; we lack the rich traditions and delightful 500-year-old structures. We are better at state-of-the-art and innovation. We fizzle when reminiscing over gray-haired institutions, outmoded customs and long dead ancestors. Why play a game we cannot win?
As a competitive
and success-oriented people, we’d rather focus on our strengths: being
specialized and making money. History is sort of like Latin. It leads to
unemployment. History is for old codgers wearing ascots and lapel pins.
Colin made me
realize that although I cannot say happiness is
History, learning about the past can add texture to my life. To make a long
story short, I now realize I am a “17th Century
After the show, I went backstage to schmooze with Colin and to tell him that he’d succeeded in his policy to cheer people up. Pursuing happiness is easier when he is in the room.
Plus, he’s devastatingly handsome (but, of course, I did not notice).
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