Heaven is Renee Fleming’s bare shoulder (Salon)

By Garrison Keillor

Feb. 28, 2007 | A great work of art has the power to blow you over and to do it unexpectedly. You sit in the theater hoping for a little diversion and a line of dialogue bwwhangs you like a skillet upside the head.

What hit me last Saturday afternoon was the line “Instead of happiness, heaven sends us habit,” which is sung by a lady named Madame Larina to her servant Filippyevna as they are peeling apples on a farm in Russia way back in the early 19th century. I am an American in headlong pursuit of happiness and here was a lady expressing an older and earthier philosophy that my aunts would not have disagreed with: Better than happiness is acceptance, a gift of God. You wake up every morning and pull on your jeans and make coffee and look at the newspaper and pour bran flakes and milk in the bowl, and as time goes by you realize that this is preferable to what you once imagined would make you happy. (more…)