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I was a Physics major in college, so I understand science. Granted, I was only a Physics major for one semester (ok, about six weeks), but a ton of good sciencey (not a word) knowledge rubbed off on me during that time. My wife, who spent four full years (day and night) in the Science building, assures me I picked up a lot less than I think. Also, that building smelled really weird.

Science wrestles with big questions, like how do we create nuclear fusion, and can we decode the human genome, and what unseen force levitates Trump’s hair, and what is the secret ingredient that makes Elmer’s glue taste so good, but the world really needs a research institute to study this: how do earphone wires spontaneously tangle themselves up? In all seriousness (and that is extremely hard for me) I do not understand this. Here’s the abbreviated owner’s manual Apple considered including with their first iPod:

  1. Fold or wrap cord carefully to prevent tangling.
  2. Place earphones in pocket, purse, or anywhere else you cannot see them.
  3. Retrieve earphones for use, allowing 2-3 minutes to untangle the cord.

I’m not the only one ensnared in this problem. If you Google “prevent tangled,” the autofill options appear, with “tangled hair” being number one and “tangled earbuds” being second, so clearly this crisis is not receiving the attention it deserves. And it’s not just a problem with earphones; knitters are snarled in this dilemma too, leading to posts with titles like “43 Ways to Keep Your Yarn Tangle-Free” and the unlikely rise of professional “detanglers,” who will patiently unwind that mass of mess you were hoping to turn into an ugly Christmas sweater. There are more than 2,000 of these people and they will untangle any mess you send them just for the cost of shipping. They have rules for this (they consider using scissors a sign of weakness and dishonor) and they sometimes post photos of what they call “tangle porn,” and describe “drooling” over a massive yarn mess that took months to unwind. My advice is to steer clear of these people who clearly know how to have a good time and don’t mind getting loud and rowdy when it’s called for. I wish I had found them before I used scissors to untangle my previous earphones.

I loved researching this article, because I finally learned the difference in a ball of yarn, a skein of yarn, and a hank of yarn: it has to do with their sign of the zodiac and it’s a science thing, so you wouldn’t understand it, but more importantly I think it illustrates two crucial things about the pursuit of happiness:

  1. It’s not the same pursuit for everyone. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure (literally in this case) and part of your journey is figuring out what adds joy to your life. The “pursuit of happiness” is just that, something you look for and travel toward and your destination may well be off the beaten path where it’s just you and a few like-minded souls living in a tiny commune on the outskirts of Weirdsville, Ohio.
  2. Even if you are the only person on the planet who enjoys what you do, do it anyway. Sometimes we shy away from things that are not ‘cool,’ because on some level it will always be eighth grade for many of us, but at this point in life, seriously,  who cares if someone else thinks it’s stupid? Be comfortable enough with yourself to be yourself, like the semi-obsessed folks who curate the Watering Can Museum, the Snoring Museum, the Ventriloquism Dummy Museum, and the Singing Billy Bass Adoption Center (why yes, it is in Arkansas–how ever did you know?). Full list of museums here. I think they’re all weird, but I promise you they couldn’t care less what I think. Sort of like my students sometimes.

William Purkey said it this way (and Elaine from Seinfeld took it to heart):

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth.

Frankly, I think this has gotten worse since Facebook and company invaded the planet, since people feel so much pressure to seek approval in the form of ‘likes’ or whatever the latest currency is. Ironically, that need to find approval tends to be self-defeating, at least in terms of happiness, since your life begins to hinge on what someone else does or does not do. I sat and listened one day to a young woman bitterly complaining that she had liked a peer’s posts numerous times, but that peer would never return the favor. She was genuinely stressed and profoundly unhappy about this and it struck me as a fairly typical teenage malady, which also infects many of us who are noticeably post-teen. You need to live your life in a way that pleases you and your God (not in that order), and if someone else happens to think it’s awesome, well, awesome!

So find your ball of yarn, or your Billy Bass or whatever it is that that brings you happiness, and untangle it. By the way, I suspect the untanglers find as much enjoyment in sharing their discoveries and victories with others as they do in the actual yarn work.

I’m heading out now to mail them my earphones.

You can read the whole tangled article here. And yes, you can watch Elaine dance here, though you know you probably shouldn’t…but, whatever makes you happy 😉

And here is Billy Bass himself to sing us out.

Coming next time: Special Post-election edition—Is Donald Trump Happy??

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