in which we discuss the results of a recent experiment

Posted on: December 16, 2012

The plan for this week was that, every morning when I awoke, I should be greeted with applause. As with most plans of such obvious importance, this one evolved from a very serious conversation had while driving around a mall parking lot during the holiday season, at one point during which Dave firmly clapped his hands, creating a very authoritative and satisfying report. (Dave, it should be noted, was not driving.)

I should probably mention that Dave  and I have a long history of clapping in cars together. On our second cross-country journey, we announced our entry into every new State by lightly clapping then pulling our hands back as though ending a game of patty-cake in an abrupt but not unfriendly manner, while saying the same of that State. And I should probably further explain why we started doing that, but the origins of that tradition are lost to the hazy mists of time. All I can offer is that when you’re driving across the country, not to sight-see but simply to get to the other side of the country, you establish a lot of rituals to mark the passage of time spent in the car : not just for entering a new state, but getting back on the highway, turning the page  on your AAA map, making it to the next point on the unbelievably complex schedule of when to smoke without smoking; each accomplishment gets its own ceremony just to celebrate that bit of progress you have made toward your goal.

It was not this sort of ceremonious clap Dave issued in the mall parking lot; nor, I don’t believe, was it laudatory in the traditional sense. However it began, the clap moved quickly into the realm of hypothesis, becoming a potential way to solve all of your problems; not constantly, but if all of your problems could be solved simply by clapping once a minute (and making an accompanying exclamation), happiness could be within everyone’s grasp.

Of course, this would be impractical, and, especially when discussing a hypothetical situation, one must still consider the practical. What about over night? Would you have to wake up every single minute to clap and exclaim? How could that possibly lead to happiness? It probably could not. But we allowed that, instead of clapping overnight, one could simply start the day with a round of applause immediately upon waking, and that would suffice. And so, having so carefully worked out the formula for a happy life, we decided that we would put it to a test : every day for the next week, we would wake up and cheer and give ourselves a round of applause.

While I was serious in undertaking this experiment, I noticed on the first day that I might have to modify the parameters a little bit. Because, although I do have an alarm clock, I actually wake up every day to Oola Belle reminding me that it’s breakfast time, and one of my sterner methods of disciplining the World’s Most Wonderful Kitten is to clap loudly in her face, which she does not enjoy. It cannot be that the secret to happiness is to begin each day by upsetting one’s kitten, and so instead of applauding, I raised my arms overhead exultantly and said yay. With, you know, more gusto than one normally would upon waking.

Ridiculous as I’m sure that sounds, it did actually work. Perhaps because of its ridiculousness; it’s difficult not to enjoy yourself when you’re purposely acting the fool. Briefly, at least. It didn’t last, but even on the days when I was ill, I was still happy to be awake at the outset of the day.

Now that the control period has ended, I must consider how to proceed. The results clearly indicate that, as we supposed, there is a link between applause and happiness. However, confining applause to the morning does not yield sustained happiness. It may be that the original hypothesis is correct – that one must clap frequently throughout the day – but I fear working in a library will make that difficult to test. Or it could be that we had the right idea on the road trip : that I should establish not only more points of celebrations but also more methods. Fortunately I have the research skills necessary to further this experiment; you can expect infrequent field reports on my progress.


2 Responses to "in which we discuss the results of a recent experiment"

Being that I wake up around 7am to get the kids up, would a morning call of applause be good or would I run the risk of waking you up before Oola, and thus depriving you of well needed sleep?

Even if I weren’t up, if you wanted to send me a round of applause at 7am, I would be very happy hear them. Fortunately, Oola wakes me up at 6, so I’ll be up and ready!

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