Where Have You Gone Richard Cory, A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You
In the poem “Richard Cory,” Edward Arlington Robinson describes how a man who seems to have everything may still be just as dissatisfied and alone as the less fortunate.
“Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fine we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.”
When I was younger, I thought that the poem was just some BS that the schools had us read to lessen our dissatisfaction with our lot in life. After all, who can be that unhappy if they have money, looks, and fame.
Now that I’m older, I’ve come to appreciate how getting what one desires doesn’t necessarily bring happiness.
Of course being rich is better than being poor. I’m not sympathetic to the “poor little rich girl” act. But beyond a certain basic level of comfort, happiness comes from within.
Dickens famously said, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result: Happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result: Misery.”
Or, if you prefer, I’ll quote Sheryl Crow who said, “It’s not having what you want/It’s wanting what you’ve got.”
Alas, it seems like we seldom remember the lessons of Robinson, Dickens, and Crow as we try to consume our way to happiness.