A friend is getting over the flu, feeling crappy but way better than before, and it occurred to me, from our conversation yesterday, that sickness -- painful if not serious -- is another example of the value of the negative in human happiness. Think of the best feeling you can have. That first sip of a cold beer. Relaxing in a hot bath. Hearing your kid say how much he loves you. These are great moments. Take it up a notch, and think about the first real kiss of a love you never thought you'd have. Or, maybe even further, that moment of ... well, yes. That's a great moment too (even if you burst into tears afterwards and can't be consoled. What? You don't? I mean, of course you don't). Anyway, my point is that even these special moments pale when compared to the moment in the course of a painful illness (flu, say) when you suddenly realise that your stomach and head don't hurt any more, and you are actually getting better.
That watershed moment of recovery -- of freedom from pain -- is stronger than just about anything else because the jump betwen good and bad is a bigger one. Think of your feelings as a number line. On that number line of feeling getting over the flu means going from negative 20 to zero, and that is a bigger jump than from zero to plus five (hot bath) or plus ten (first sip of coffee, though that might be me) or plus fifteen (before you start weeping, and plunge back to negative ten).
There. Don't you feel convinced, now that I've explained things in numerical terms?
So what's the happiest word in the English language? I thought a lot (well, a bit. Well for a minute or two) about this, and came up with LOVE or BABY or HOME or WINNER or HOLIDAY or FOREVER (sounds like a good list -- am I missing any?) but someone famous and funny (Woody Allen? Had to be some older and death-obsessed guy) says that the word is BENIGN.
Ain't that a kick.
I'm off for a few days now, travelling again. I might get to an internet cafe and I might not, so have fun without me. Be good to each other.