“When happiness shows up, give it a comfortable seat,” Fezziwig says. I wonder just how much like old Ebenezer Scrooge I am—apart from the abundant money, of course. This isn’t going where you expect, I promise you! I don’t come across as a happy person. I was forced out of my ideal career many years ago by Fundamentalists, and I struggle to keep my writing going. That old rabbinic adage that you can’t be both wise and happy probably doesn’t help. So I sit here worrying about the everyday cares and concerns of a sexagenarian (not as sexy as it sounds) and watching horror films to help me cope. That doesn’t mean, however, that moments of happiness don’t appear. When they do they shine bright and hot and shed enough light to help me make it to the next beacon that some thoughtful lamplighter has set ablaze.
For a birthday gift, we gave a family member a trip to see Cats live in Philadelphia. Everything about that day comes back to me through rose-tinted lenses. The worry and stress of driving in Philly—I’ve done it a few times and it’s always nerve-wracking. Finding the theater, negotiating parking, finding a place to accommodate a vegan, a vegetarian, and an omnivore for lunch. Locating seats only to discover they’re further back than they looked on the schematic map, and then the lights dim and the music begins and you’re in a different world. All the worry and fear melt away. Happiness has appeared and you know she’s sitting right next to you. Even with evening Philly traffic still looming ahead and a drive when I’m beginning to feel drowsy, I’ve had an experience almost of a religious nature.
It’s no wonder that many early evangelical Christian leaders warned about the theater. Live performances reach that spiritual place that weekly Sunday services only wish they could. Of course, it helps that Cats is my favorite show—I’ve seen it live five times over the years. It’s a show about happiness and finding redemption. I’ve written before about the religious undertones to the musical, but here I’m thinking about how the day after always has a special glow. Yes, the quotidian worries are still there. The attempts to grow wiser and stay solvent. The difference is that something transcendent—all the more valuable for being rare—has happened. It has shaken me out of my comfort zone and my daily routine. And I can’t wait for happiness to come knocking again.