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Happiness is quiche and a fine grammatical point

by Leo Morris

I was spending a quiet day amusing myself with harmless diversions. I played a little guitar. I read a few chapters in a mystery novel. I watched part of an old movie on cable. I gave a Sunday newspaper the once-over. I studied my recipe for breakfast quiche to see if I still wanted to use Old Bay as the main seasoning (I did).

I thought I was having fun.

Silly me.

That’s when I stumbled across an article it would have been better to skip. Indiana, according to a breakdown by WalletHub, ranks only 37th out of 50 for “Most Fun States in America.” We apparently score low on the all-important “Entertainment & Recreation” and “Nightlife” scales.

We have a pathetic number of restaurants per capita and practically no access to marinas or national parks. We don’t have major attractions, ideal weather, adequate fitness centers or skiing facilities. We don’t even have enough bars and our “last call” times are ridiculously early.

No things to do in the daytime, no places to go in the nighttime. How very sad. Talk about a splash of cold water on my childlike illusion of happiness.

But, not to fear. The Indianapolis Star was there to rescue me from the depths of depression.

WalletHub had it all wrong, the Star advised. For one thing, it ignored special or annual events such as the Indianapolis 500 and our pro football and basketball teams and that special frenzy known as Hoosier Hysteria. For another, it measured only the quantity of restaurants, ignoring the superior quality of our eateries.

Take that, California (No. 1)! Eat our dust, New York (No. 2)!

The Star, unfortunately, got it no more right than did WalletHub. By arguing that WalletHub overlooked Indiana’s fun things to do and places to go, it accepted WalletHub’s basic proposition that fun does indeed consist of Things to Do and Places to Go. That is called a faulty premise, from which, we were taught in Logic 101, no valid conclusions can be drawn.

Somewhere between the Buddhism of Charles Schultz (happiness is a warm puppy or sleeping in your own bed or walking in the rain or whatever else fulfills you) and the cynicism of Mac Sledge in “Tender Mercies” (“I don’t trust happiness. Never did, never will”) is the simple truth that happiness is more the journey than the destination and that all our journeys are personal ones.

Once in high school, a teacher asked us what our goals in life were. Put in a contrarian mood by all my classmates who offered various versions of saving or conquering the world, I answered something like, “I shall live in a cabin on a lake and pursue small enthusiasms.”

That was back when we only had to defend our tastes to one dissenter at a time. My choices for diversions were soul-recharging necessities, yours were a mindless waste of time, and we could argue about them for hours at a time.

Today, cable networks, the Internet and social media have us living in each other’s back pockets, and I can’t noodle on the guitar or fiddle with a recipe without feeling that I’m either cheating myself or defying the haughty arbiters of universal fun.

I’m sure you noticed, by the way, that I wrote I “shall” live in a cabin on a lake. It is sadly true that the difference between “will” and “shall” has all but disappeared in modern usage. But there is still a grammatically justifiable reason to observe the distinction, and occasionally I like to sneak in one of those finer points just to annoy people.

It amuses me.

And if you think that makes me a pedantic, anal-retentive snob, I hope you scream and pull your hair and call me a sneering, condescending jerk.

If it amuses you.

Are we having fun yet?

Leo Morris is a columnist for The Indiana Policy Review. Contact him at leoedits@yahoo.com.