More on Happiness: Can 79 College Students be Wrong?

The New York Times blog tells us that happiness comes from deep discussion, and not from shallow. That's based on the experiences of 79 human guinea pigs at the University of Arizona, and I see the conclusion as an argument for getting a degree in creative writing. The late Carol Bly wrote about creative writing classes as oases of meaning in "American junk culture." So how about a slogan for AWP:
Study writing, get happy.

Farewell, tortured poet. Leave your troubles inside your garret. Come to the cabaret.

You can read about the Suicidal Poet Predictor in Scary Place to see the difference in vocabulary and subject between suicidal and non-suicidal poets. According to Scary Place,The poets who committed suicide used many more first-person singular self-references such as "I," "me" and "my" and fewer first-person plural words than did the non-suicidal poets [according to a study by psychologist James Pennebaker and graduate student Shannon Stirman in Psychosomatic Medicine].

"Issues of identity, isolation and connection to others is revealed in pronoun usage," Pennebaker said in an interview. "One of the most telling words of all is the word 'I.' People who are suicidal or depressed use 'I' at much, much higher rates, and there's also a corresponding drop in references to other people."

The suicidal poets also generally reduced their use of communication words such as "talk," "share" and "listen" over time heading toward their self-inflicted deaths, while the non-suicidal poets tended to increase their use of such words. The suicidal ones also used more words associated with death, but surprisingly the amount of words with negative emotion (for example, "hate") or positive emotion ("love") did not vary significantly between the groups.

Those of you who read this blog know that suffering is included with the price of admission. I remember once when I came home from college I was talking to my aunt B and we had both read The Bell Jar. I told her that Sylvia Plath (pictured above) had described the way I felt. She was surprised. Alarmed. And that was the end of it. I think Plath had already killed herself by then. I have not. She died before the really good drugs were invented. And the good drugs aren't good for everybody.

I met a woman today who lectures and writes about humor in the Bible. The funniest story? The Book of Job, she said. Seriously.