Occasionally, Elsa asks me to edit something she is writing for her marvelous web site Art is a Way www.artisaway.com . The other day, she was writing about happiness and pain.
Happiness is not tangible. You cannot touch it, you cannot measure it, you cannot put it in a box and keep it in a safe place. That is because happiness is a concept, a creation of the mind, something invented. I believe that happiness is up to each of us. What makes someone happy could make someone else sad . Happiness is a personal experience that belongs to us alone.
The opposite of happiness is pain, physical and emotional. But I want to focus on emotional pain. Emotionally painful experiences have endless sources; some come from childhood and some from adulthood. They come in all sizes and colors. Some create deep scars and some don’t leave scars at all. But all of them shape us to be the person that we are, depending on how we interact with them. When pain owns you, you become a victim and it is hard to move forward from that position. But when you do the opposite and own your pain, then you become the object of the experience, so it is easier to establish some distance, evaluate the situation and find solutions.
The filmmakers of NO, the captivating movie from Chile, created a great depiction of Elsa's profound ideas. In 1988, responding to international criticism of the strongman dictator Pinochet, a referendum was held in which people could vote "Yes" or "No' about the current regime. Each side had equal time on TV during the campaign. Everyone expected that a "Yes" vote was as inevitable as the military might behind it.
A young, ambitious advertising man was called in as a consultant for the "No" campaign. The "No" people wanted to make a compelling case against Pinochet for his human rights abuses. The deaths. The torture. The disappearances. The ad man (a Don Draper as man of the people?) had another idea. "Let's talk about a bright future for Chile. Let's talk about a rainbow coalition. Let's talk about happiness." And, that's what the winning ad campaign achieved.