I love old movies. There are many reasons why I love old movies, but the greatest reason is probably because the oldest movies have the best things to say. From the dual meaning of “As you wish” to something as simple yet enduring as “There’s no place like home,” old movies really had something they wanted to communicate. New movies, more often than not, leave me cold. There’s nothing to quote. For a girl who abandoned speaking in English for speaking in movie quotes years ago, if I come away from a movie unable to repeat any of its dialogue, the movie was a waste of time.
There’s a particular old favorite of mine called Hello Dolly, based off of the Thornton Wilder play The Matchmaker. It’s about a woman who it a vibrant, energetic, and strong—yet almost allows life to pass her by. At one point, after a gloriously colorful and energetic dance number involving half the city of New York, Dolly collapses onto a bench and a girl who’s just met the love of her life runs up to Dolly, grabs her hands, and says “Isn’t the world full of wonderful things?”
Dolly cannot agree. She can only smile and squeeze her friend’s hands before letting her flit off with the boy who’s found her. She watches them go, and her smile fades. In an apostrophe to her dear departed husband, she tells him: “For years I haven’t shed one tear, nor have I for one moment been outrageously happy.” She has forgotten how to live life fully.
We can’t live every moment of our lives being outrageously happy. If we did, the moments of ridiculous happiness would become monotonous and lose their sparkle. But a life without moments of exceptional, uninhibited happiness can hardly be called a life. Where does this happiness come from? Happiness is a fleeting thing—unlike joy, which is a steady stream of contentment that comes only with divine grace and practiced care—and is tied to fleeting pleasures. But happiness (the exceptional, uninhibited kind) comes from a wide-eyed, appreciative delight in the fact that the world, in fact, is full of wonderful things.
For example: there is nothing particularly exceptional about the concept of a firework. It’s gunpowder (or a similar substance) stuffed into a tube and then set on fire. Fireworks are no more than really big, synchronized sparks. But they’re wonderful. They’re not only pretty, but powerful. Flowers fired from a cannon. Comets in a bottle. They world’s only beautiful bombs. Watching them explode above your head makes you feel like the whole planet is celebrating. And tonight, at the conclusion of a long and exciting day, watching the sparks fly and the hearing the rockets boom, I was happy. Exceptionally, uninhibitedly, outrageously happy.
It is possible. It is real. Happiness still exists. It has not gone the way of the dinosaur and the dodo bird. While happiness is not a lasting sensation, it does burst into our lives on occasion, yellow, bright, and glowing.
God knows we need it.