There’s a great podcast I’ve started listening to which is called “The Happiness Lab” and it’s presented by Dr. Laurie Santos. It’s just what I need – it’s a scientific approach to feeling happy. Hurrah.
There’s a great episode which looks at Olympic medal winners. Up until yesterday I’d never heard of McKayla Maroney. She was a member of the USA team in the 2012 Olympics that won the gold medal in the women’s gymnastic team event. Despite breaking a bone in her foot before the Olympics she also came second in the individual team Vault competition. On the winners podium she gave a brief look of disappointment which became a meme called “not impressed”. The look was generally assumed to be acute disappointment at not winning the gold medal. She later showed a good sense of humour about this look and was pictured with President Obama.
Laurie Santos goes on to describe research that has been carried out into Olympic medal winners over the past few competitions. For example, researchers analysed the look on the faces of medal winners at the Barcelona Olympics at the point at which they finished a race. The bronze medallists scored, on average 7.1/10 whereas silver medallists scored 4.8/10. One interpretation is that silver medallists are not thinking about their huge achievement in winning silver; rather they are considering an alternative reality in which they came first. Bronze medallists may possibly be thinking about the alternative reality where they came first but it’s considered more likely that they are thinking about a closer alternative reality in which they don’t get a medal at all. Similar research with similar findings has been carried out at other Olympics. A bronze medallist isn’t gazing enviously at the winner; they are looking down at all the people who didn’t beat them.
The conclusion is that there’s always a worse reality out there. Not all of my recent posts have been sunny, happy and full of optimism. Having listened to this podcast is like when my dear friend Peter tells me “to get over it” – it’s a much needed kick up the backside to “count my blessings”, “always look on the bright side”, regard the glass as “half full”, realise that “things could be worse”. I think that looking down and not up is key here. There are so many things I should be grateful for that I have no excuse not to be happy. I’m so happy I’m singing “La La La”.
Although that’s a great chorus that Pokey La Farge sings, the song “La La Blues” is not especially positive as he’s just split up with his partner: “I know that you’ve heard this old song sung before but you ain’t heard it while I was walking out the door. It’s goodbye baby. Honey your time has come. I’ve turned the tables and now you’re the one on the bum. It’s La La La. I’m singing La La La. I’m so happy I’m singing La La La”. Nevertheless, once I start singing the chorus, my mood lightens.
Pokey La Farge, who was born in Illinois, was only 27 when he made this record. The genre of his music can best be described as “old-time American.” Here’s what he says about the reaction to his music when he toured in the U.K. “The biggest reaction is: ‘What in the hell kind of music you call that?’ People in the UK are enthusiasts and fairly knowledgeable about old-time music, very articulate, and they want to talk about how it was back in the day and how it is now in America.” It was Paddy who first recommended seeing him and we went to two fantastic gigs in the tiny upstairs venue at The Prince Albert in Brighton. Paddy was accosted by an attractive woman who said hello to him and then told him he was very tall. Disappointingly for Paddy, this wasn’t a chat up line, it was a polite way of asking him to stand at the back. Luckily, being a foot shorter, I had no such problem. The gigs were excellent.
It’s not possible to listen to the songs on this record without feeling joyously happy. The publicity material issued describe his music like this. “Pokey LaFarge is a traditional American music purist channeling American roots, country blues, and jazz traditions of the early 20th century. Musically timeless and stylistically original, Pokey and the South City Three are helping pave the way in the growing eminence of contemporary American music spreading like wildfire across the world.” Ryan Koenig who plays harmonica, washboard, guitar, guitjo, snare drum is completely manic. Adam Hoskins is a brilliant guitarist.
This is what “good time” music feels like.