Jin Shengtan was a 17th century Chinese critic who once found himself stranded with a friend in a temple for ten days because of a rainstorm. While thus secluded, the pair compiled a list of 33 of the truly happy moments in life. The wonderful thing about Chin’s 33 Happy Moments is their lack of piety. Happiness is seen not as a constant, state, but as an occasional surprise. Each week we’ll be printing one of Chin’s moments, and we’re also inviting readers to email us their own.
1. A sudden rainstorm is very welcome
It is a hot day in June when the sun hangs still in the sky and there is not a whiff of wind in the air, nor a trace of clouds; the front and back yards are hot like an oven and not a single bird dares to fly about. Perspiration flows down my whole body in little rivulets. There is the noonday meal before me, but I cannot take it for the sheer heat. I ask for a mat to spread on the ground and lie down, but the mat is wet with moisture and flies swarm about to rest on my nose and refuse to be driven away. Just at this moment when I am completely helpless, suddenly there is a rumbling of thunder and big sheets of black clouds overcast the sky and come majestically on like a great army advancing to battle. Rain-water begins to pour down from the eaves like a cataract. The perspiration stops. The clamminess of the ground is gone. All flies disappear to hide themselves and I can eat my rice. Ah, is this not happiness?
Do you have a happy moment? Send your “ah, is this not happiness?” moment to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “ah!”