Happiness is…. what?

Arifa Akbar in The Independent:

RembrandtEarlier this year, a terminally ill cancer patient requested a last visit to the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum to see a Rembrandt exhibition. A striking image accompanied the news story, of the patient on a gurney, surrounded by staff, face turned towards one of Rembrandt’s final self-portraits, the colour and shade in the photograph reflecting something of the light falling across Rembrandt’s aged face in the painting, and the edges of darkness converging behind him.The drama of the photograph lay in what it denied us: the face that we wanted to see in this instance was not Rembrandt’s, however enigmatic he appears in his magnificent stillness, but the dying patient’s. Instead, it invited us to imagine her face – the smile (or otherwise) and the happiness (or otherwise) that was collected there. It seemed like a metaphor for happiness, a feeling when expressed still evading clear expression.

…The simplest definition of happiness is in the few images in the book: Jez Alborough’s illustrated rhyming poem, Nat the Cat, with a smiling cat as she comforts an unhappy rabbit, and Chris Riddell’s sketches of a mother holding a child, a couple holding hands; the image summarising the feeling in a way that words can’t. Which takes us back to the picture of the woman in the Rijksmuseum who might have been smiling or crying, happy or regretful or sad, or all of these things, at once.

More here.