The Pursuit of Happiness
Local researchers are on the hunt for the scientific underpinnings of human joy. Our writer enters a world where the formula for unending bliss may be just a click away.
ONE FINE DAY, WHEN I’M supposed to be writing, I play hooky and head to the Fells with my dog. We wander through scrubby forest, sliding on the pine needles. The reservoir shines through the chinks of the trees, the achingly blue water prickled by the wind. The dog scrambles up a hillside and splatters herself all over through the underbrush. I wade through some mud and emerge speckled, dappled, brindled. I’m just leaning down to examine the dots all over my leg when, out of nowhere, an intense euphoria grips me. I am appallingly free. I’m Huck Finn about to light out for the territories, Woody Guthrie about to hop a train with the hobos. This is pure, uncut, heroin-grade happiness, and I’d forgotten that it can feel so dangerous.
I have no way to record the bliss — no pen, no smartphone. But I do have a stick in my hand, and I throw it. The dog flies up, hanging in the air for a brief moment before snatching the stick from the sky. And already I can feel the moment fading, passing on to something else.