That Chill Divine

–Reflections on Michael Hutchence and happiness

As writers, we never know where our next idea will come from…how our next story will take form. To me, that’s always been part of the allure of our craft. The visceral excitement of not knowing what will take shape on a page and why. And the exhilarating potentiality that our words will help forge a connection with even one other human being. That’s so exciting, is it not?

The other day, as I was about to begin my workout, I searched for something to watch on the tube, as I always do to alleviate the boredom of trudging on the treadmill or pedaling my stationary bike. I happened upon , a documentary about INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence, who hung himself in 1997 in his homeland of Sydney, Australia. is also the name of one of the band’s mega-hits and features trippy lyrics with a backbeat to match.

The band shot to fame with their album in 1987 and I dug the hell out of it, as I also did Hutchence, the main attraction. Everyone was drawn to him. He was sexy, charismatic, and talented. And a bit of a shy boy who loved women but committed to only one at a time. Too, although he never considered himself to be an intellectual, he was literate, bookish, and loved to quote Sarte.

He could have quoted Santa Claus for all I cared, as he had me at “Come over here,” in Need You Tonight.

As blessed as Michael Hutchence appeared to be, as much as this young guy appeared to “have it all,” happiness eluded him. Part of that was due to an assault that occurred in Paris when he was biking with his then-girlfriend, model Helena Christensen. The pair had bought pizza and stopped in a road to eat it. A taxi driver, furious that the couple was blocking his path, went up to Hutchence and without a word, shoved him to the ground where he hit his head on the pavement, with such force that he was bleeding from his mouth and ears.

Depression and constant mood swings haunted him for years after.

Although fit, if you’re familiar with INXS, then you know Hutchence was also slight of build and most likely it wouldn’t have taken much to severely injure him. And it didn’t. He suffered cerebral nerve damage that robbed him of his sense of smell, as well as taste. That’s a tragedy for anyone, but for someone who was noted for his sensuality, not being able to smell the sweet scent of his baby’s skin, or taste his lover’s lips, must have been like a living death for Hutchence. Hutchence was never the same after that dark night on a random Parisian road. Relations with his bandmates who formerly were like brothers to him, cooled. And his attempt at launching a solo career tanked. Depression and constant mood swings haunted him for years after. And as I watched the many videos of him dancing, snuggling up to his various sweeties, mugging for the cameras, and also, consenting to several somber interviews, I was hit by the question, “What is happiness?”

When asked this very question, Hutchence struggled for an answer, to no avail.

So I pose this question with all sincerity. What the hell does it mean to “be happy?”

Is it having enough to eat and a roof over one’s head? Does happiness come from being loved and loving in return? From being desired or having an active sex life? Do fans make us happy? Or stats, or a healthy bank balance? How do we feel when we’re happy? Is it visceral? Like the sensation we get after the first sip of a perfect Dirty Martini? as Hutchence sings in Mystify? Or is happiness purely emotional, snuggled deep within our psyches, warming us from within?

There are those who experience moments of happiness. Brief flashes that, like fireflies, burn bright, flicker, and then dim. Conversely, and incongruously, I’ve come across individuals — some right here, as a matter of fact — who appear to be happy, all the freakin’ time. I’m in awe of these people, as they seem to have found their paths in life. They embrace where they’ve been and where they’re going.

How does that work? Please, one of you, create a course about .

If someone smiles, does that mean they’re happy? Typically, it does, but today, with our mistrust of one another, we might expect a smile to come before a bullet. There are no givens, anymore.

For far too long I’ve pondered my own emotional state. There are days when, if I stop to think about it, I realize that I am neither happy nor unhappy.

How about you?

The pandemic, along with our resulting insular existence, has contributed to this automatic state of being. Our daily routines feel a bit like traps, albeit, with the widespread distribution of the Covid virus, we have a bit more freedom to explore, as restaurants, shops, and other businesses are slowly attempting a return to normalcy.

I believe happiness is served up in bits, like one, big, cosmic Chex Mix, where you never quite know what you’re going to get. A peanut here, a breadstick or pretzel there…like that.

We need to snatch a fistful of that crazy mix when and where we can. And grab hold of those precious moments that warm and sustain us.

Everyone has their own version of happiness. What brings you joy might leave me cold, and vice versa. With that said, I believe where we all come together is in even if our methods differ.

Never in my life have I craved the material. I crave an absence of worry. There! Right there, for me, comprises the state of happiness. But, that doesn’t seem attainable, does it? Who doesn’t worry in this life? In these times fraught with fear of, and hate for, what we don’t, or are unwilling to understand?

Too, I crave control…to be in control. When I’m not, it throws me off my game. As in now. Because trying to help my husband deal with his insomnia and resulting health issues have left me feeling powerless, and has turned me into someone I don’t like, nor want to be, as history has proven that when I get scared, I can get mean. I’m working on it.

How did watching bring all this out in me? This rambling spew? Possibly, because so many of us are trying to solve the that is happiness. Trying to taste it before we’re no longer able to taste anything, like Michael Hutchence.

Also, today is my birthday, and I’ve become increasingly weird and introspective about that particular date in the calendar year. As much as I choose to think of it as just a number, those digits come with their own set of challenges. But, as “they” always say, I think of the alternative and consequently, am to embrace the process.

And I want that chill divine. For as long as the Universe will allow.


Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn is a long-time, Chicago area, advertising/marketing writer, blogger and, for the last fifteen years, screenwriter. A big-time dreamer and proud of it, Sherry has had two short films produced, one in L.A., the other in New York. Both won several awards and screened at festivals but she is still "fighting the good fight," in order to become a full-time, working screenwriter. A passionate straight-shooter who never rests on her laurels, Sherry writes about damn near everything because how do you encapsulate…life? Unflinching in her determination to “just tell the truth,” Sherry strives to educate, engage and inspire others to follow their dreams. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, Sherry resides in a Chicago suburb with her husband and their three fabulous felines.

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  1. Hi, Sherry.
    I think happiness is a symptom of smiling. And the smiles are most powerful when they’re self-deprecating, aka laughing at our own worry, for instance (Don’t suffer twice!!!).
    If you have trouble laughing at yourself, get your friends to help.
    I am Here, and that may or may not be happiness, but I suspect always trying to be There is unhappiness.

    • Hi, Mac. I have no trouble laughing at myself. If you should happen upon any of my other stories, you’ll know what I mean. 😉

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Sherry – your article made me think. What really makes me happy. Given the challenges and separations of the past year plus, just being with my adult children and grandchildren makes me happy. Not being able to be with them for so many months, changed my perspective on many things. The grand gestures and international travel no longer bring joy. Quality time with loved ones is what matters to me now.