Seeking the Bluebird of Happiness
Holly S. Murray
A few years ago while attending artist in residence in Jingdezhen, China, I inadvertently pick up a napkin in a rural restaurant. Printed on it was an image of factories with smoke billowing out of the chimneys. Flying above in the smoke were two blue birds. I was struck by the power of this visual language easing the viewer toward an interpretation of how to think about our world. We are of course bombarded every day in all areas of our lives by images. I became curious about the use of the blue bird in this context, its origins and meaning in our culture and other cultures as well. I found that the blue bird has been universally utilized by many cultures for thousands of years as a symbol for happiness, prosperity, renewal. My interest became focused on its origins in Western Europe, where much of our mythology in the United States emanates in the form of fairy tales and symbology.
As I considered the present dilemma of our time, my sense is that we are often like children in the fairy tale seeking what we can not seem to find. I have pondered how “happiness” has acquired the status of an inalienable right in our culture as if it were something outside ourselves that is obtainable.
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