William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

This I Call Happiness

Even just a few casual observations by Dostoevsky on the then-current publication of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina are of such a depth as to distinguish both as great writers. My own reading of the book years ago, as much as I enjoyed it, by comparison, was that of a naïve schoolboy. Considered in the context of Russian society and Russian history, of which then I had but a slight understanding, there is much more at play. Thus every day I am reminded of my ignorance. And every day I take timid steps around the perimeter of its seemingly impenetrable mass, and can only guess at its extent and its depth. This I call happiness. How better to characterize such good fortune and privilege? — all with food on the table and a roof overhead. Slavery and serfdom pondered in relative safety: how long, I wonder, will such be the case? Until I walk out the door and am shot in the street? Until I am spirited away in an unmarked van? Until I die of hunger or from a lack of medical care? For I am no more immune than you are, whoever you are, wherever you live. And so when I write about walking, and watering the plants, when I write about filling the birdbath and sweeping the step, it is not out of boredom; it is because I rejoice in these things and count them as rare experiences. Are they not rare? Stop. Look around you. If you do not recognize them as such, beware.

September 16, 2020


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