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Monday, August 18, 2003

Bang bang, shoot shoot

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased (?) to announce that this summer has seen a complete fundamental change in Rowan's life.

It's also almost imperceptible. In my simple behaviors, I'm probably pretty much the same, as those of you who've been talking to me all summer can probably attest.The change is very simple and very deep. It's kind of like this: the difference between 65 and the difference between 6.5 is a single dot, but it's a dot that changes everything.

When I was in 7th grade, I had a math teacher who liked to start class with question for getting our brain juices pumping. Most of the time, as I recalled, they were logic or language puzzles. The one that I remember was "If you could have anything you wanted, what would it be?" The kids, as I recalled, had answers like "money," or "a fast car," or possibly "a great boy/girlfriend." I don't remember too specifically, though the social psychology lover in me wishes I did. My answer, though, was: "Happiness, because it doesn't matter how rich or how poor you have, as long as you're happy." The other kids sniggered at me, as I recall, taking that to mean I wanted to be poor. It was then that I discovered Plato's Republic, and, declaring myself to be Philosopher-King, I amused myself by forcing them to breed with each other in bizarre pairings. (the last bit was a lie. I don't like Plato, and first encountered the bastard in college)

THERE WILL NOW FOLLOW PHILOSOPHY. SKIP TO THE END IF YOU PREFER. I MIGHT BE BORING.

At any rate, for the last . . . it must be 10 years at least . . . eep! I've kept that thought. Happiness, I thought, is something that everyone, including me, must by definition strive for, and should, logically, be something that everyone, including me, wants.

My definition of happiness has slowly crystallized over the last few years. It had been something along the lines of "a generally pleasant mental state." It was a definition influenced by utilitarianism Lately, influenced partially by Buddhism, other eastern thought, and my own personal philosophical definition methodology (which I've yet to come up with a cool word for - no "geneology" for me - yet), I've refined that to: "Happiness is a null-state, without the intrusion of other emotions." There's a reason that nirvana literally translates to "nothingness," I feel. I come to this definition by defining what isn't happiness. I look at other emotions, and it's all pretty obvious that they aren't happiness. The crucial two, though, are joy and calm. The two are very different states of mind: joy is infectious, dominant, and active. Calm is submissive, and passive. One cannot help feeling joyous, but calm is what one would strive for if they didn't want to feel joy, or whatever strong emotion. Next, the language test. Can someone say "I am feeling joyous and happy" versus "I am feeling calm and happy?" The latter phrase, "calm and happy," seems to flow better. "Joyous and happy" seems clumsy. (I am making a necessary assumption here that english-speakers, in general, agree with me. If you disagree, that ruins my argument, so let me know.)


I have just hit a roadblock. Having determined that "calm and happy" works, and "joyous and happy" does not, I am unable to analyze why this is. The paths my thoughts were taking were coming back opposed to one another. But I think I just came up with the reason.

What I'm trying to do here is place one word, happiness, close to one of two other words, calm and joy. The shape of the word itself, in how it is used, is what makes it closer to one or the other. Like this:

How are you?

"Happy."
"Calm."
"Joyous."

What emotion are you feeling?

"Happiness."
"Calmness."
"Joy."

Because of the way the words are formed, it seems to me that happiness is closer to calmness that to joy. The root forms of the words, reveal their passiveness versus their activeness, ie, "calmness" is a passive state, and "happiness" is used in the same format, revealing that happiness is passive, like calmness, and opposed to joy.

I'll note here that the last argument is not intended to stand on its own on a logical basis. The starting point, about "calm and happy" being more consonant to our ears than "joyous and happy" is something I agree with, and the conclusion of the argument, that it's because calmness and happiness are passive, where joy is active, is also something I agree with. The argument itself is, I feel, an attempt to show why I agree with it. It's flawed because thoughts are not done in words, and this is.

END PHILOSOPHY

With happiness defined as a passive state, I've come to realize that I don't want it. I look back at my life, and I don't see strong memories of happiness. My memories are of active emotions. Joy, I feel, is the most postive active emotion.

In my mind, happiness comes from a lack of negativity. Joy comes from a triumph over negativity. My previous motivation was: in order to be happy, try to eliminate problems. Live in a state of mental comfort. I no longer want that.
- Rowan Kaiser, 1:18 PM
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