by Kim Kelly
Orson Welles purportedly said, ‘If you want a happy ending, that depends on where you stop the story.’
Indeed. Someone else said the best stories end with a new story about to begin. I don’t know who said that, but I say it a lot myself, and certainly end all my own tales that way – not with an ending but with the opening of another door. I love to let the reader, whose story this has now become, decide what will happen next, beyond the resolution, and the happiness it brings.
Why, though, does there so often seem to be an aversion to the happy ending in what we consider to be worthwhile literature?
Are the dark shadows and excruciating confusions of life the only stuff that’s good for our brains?
In real life, that way madness lies. In the everyday grind of existence our ability to draw upon optimism, to look forward to the new day despite the shitfight of today, and to understand the ephemeral nature of absolutely everything is the foundation of mental health and resilience.
Personally, for me, the idea of happiness as some kind of permanent state is a crock. But I damn well grab it with both hands when it comes and hold onto it for as long as it lasts, be that a second or a day. I’ve had to work hardest at dragging myself up from the swamps of despair than at any other aspect of being, and still do, all the time – which probably explains why hope and new beginnings are such important take-away themes in my own writing.
All stories that remind us love and light are ours to have and to share, all stories that show us compassion and empathy are intellectual skills, are valuable stories. Well, I think so, anyway.
Those who know my own will know that I think of love and hope as political acts, too. Bright banners against those who tell us that happy endings should come with price tags, sales spreadsheets and share-holder dividends. In this context, I sometimes wonder if the shunning of love in literature is an acceptance of despair and fear – and that that’s precisely where capitalism’s greedmeisters want us to be, so that we’ll buy their crap unthinkingly, or in the belief that it might make us, um, happy.
But my pink-tinged politics aside, I really do think it’s about time we brought a bit of happy back into style. A bit of a sense that although life is often miserable and baffling, our capacities to give and learn and grow with each resolution not only make life bearable – they’re important to our survival. Perhaps really, truly. Unless we turn this ship around, away from the grim black of endless war and mindless destruction we seem to have on loop right now, things probably won’t end well for any of us.