New York’s “Vulture” guys posted a riff yesterday about actors who’ve recently talked about quitting (Joaquin Phoenix, Angelina Jolie) and others who’ve voiced sentiments along these lines. I understand occasional burnout moods, especially if you have the dough with which to experiment and discover new realms, but life is finally not about what makes you “happy.” It’s about fulfilling your potential to the utmost during your brief time on the planet — period.

In the words of Pt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt (i.e., Montgomery Clift) in From Here to Eternity, “A man should be what he can do.” If it makes you happy, great — but you must do that thing, however good or bad or satisfied or mellowed-out it makes you feel.

Vincent Van Gogh lived in a state of relative bummer-hood for much if not most of his life, but what if he’d decided to chuck painting in favor of a job as a waiter or a wheat farmer or sailor — i.e., some vocation that made him feel less agitated? What about Willem Dafoe‘s decision to come off the cross in The Last Temptation of Christ and get married, have children and have a normal-type life, and his horrifying realization at the finale that he’d betrayed his divine purpose on earth? I suffered greatly when I was trying to make it as a journalist in the early days, when I wasn’t very good at it. I wanted to quit, I wanted peace — the weight on my back was crushing, awful. And thank fortune I never gave in.

Screw “happy.” The hell with smelling the roses. (Although a life without occasional intervals of quiet spiritual contemplation would be a barren thing indeed.) The higher calling is all. Indeed, fulfilling that calling makes your whole life a field of roses, in a roundabout hard-road sense.