THE BLOG
02/19/2008 09:37 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Alicia Silverstone's "Dumbest Celeb Quote" actually gives profound insight into the nature of happiness.

I was in the physical therapist's office the other day (see the epiphany of Back Spasm) and reading the January edition of Readers' Digest. Drawing from VH1's 40 Dumbest Celeb Quotes, a sidebar called "They're Stars, Just Dim Ones" quoted Alicia Silverstone saying, "I think the film Clueless was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it's true lightness."

Now, quoted like that, I admit, Alicia Silverstone sounds a little preposterous. But I think she's quite right.

A line from the British writer G. K. Chesterton has haunted me for years, and has been one of the major influences on my Happiness Project: It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.

It's on the screensaver of my laptop. It's one of my personal koans. It floats through my head several times a day. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.

This is one reason that I love St. Therese of Lisieux so much. She made saintliness seem so light - so effortless, so fun, so happy - that many of her fellow nuns didn't even recognize her heroic virtue. Even now, when people discuss the style of her spiritual memoir, The Story of a Soul, they criticize her for her sweetness, and exclamation points, and her hearts-and-flowers aesthetic. They don't understand that she was choosing (I think) to be light.

One mystery of happiness is why some people choose to be unhappy. One answer: It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light. And you don't get credit for being light. It looks easy and effortless. No one thinks much about you or tries to accommodate you. You get taken for granted.

Same thing with a movie or a book - it seems so easy to do a light movie, with jokes and cheeriness and a happy ending. But is it easier to make people cry or to make them laugh?

Is it easier to be critical or to be enthusiastic?

Is it easier to be fretful or to be satisfied?

Is it easier to yell or to joke around?

It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.

I bet that G. K. Chesterton and Alicia Silverstone have never come up in the same discussion before.

If you'd like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen's daily blog, The Happiness Project, and join the Happiness Project group on Facebook to swap ideas.