A Little Happier: Can We Rise to the Occasion? Is This Our Moment to Sing the Aria?

Years ago, I read the book The Happiness Hypothesis (Amazon, Bookshop) by Jonathan Haidt. In it, he told a story that I’ve never forgotten.

In the book, he writes about how sometimes we can grow after a traumatic experience.

In his discussion of post-traumatic growth, Jonathan Haidt tells the story of his old friend Greg, who went through a terrible time. Greg’s wife disappeared with their two children, and when Greg learned where she’d gone, it turned out she’d left Greg for another man. Greg was in terrible distress from what had happened.

In time, the situation became resolved. A few months later, Jonathan Haidt reports, Greg was still reeling, but he also felt that he’d gained valuable lessons from what had happened. He’d learned how many people cared about him and wanted to help him. He felt that he responded to other people with more love, sympathy, and forgiveness. He experienced more joy with his children than he had before the crisis. From the crisis, his values and his perspectives on what mattered most in his life had changed.

Then Jonathan Haidt continues the story:

And then Greg said something so powerful that I choked up. Referring to the often sad and moving solo that is at the heart of many operas, he said: “This is my moment to sing the aria. I don’t want to, I don’t want to have this chance, but it’s here now, and what am I going to do about it? Am I going to rise to the occasion?”

I’ve never forgotten this reflection, because it’s such a beautiful example of how we can reframe what has happened to us, and use the lens of art to try to make sense of it.

It’s a question that all of us must answer, at certain points in our lives: Am I going to rise to the occasion, am I going to sing the aria?

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