The root of happiness

April 19, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog

I can tell you the root of happiness.

I’m talking about the root of the word, not the emotion per se, but they’re related, so the answer is telling.

First, let’s note that for many people, happiness is their highest value, over money, fame, fortune, and power. More pointedly, when you ask people what they want for their children, happiness ranks yet higher.

The root of happiness is hap, which is the same hap in perhaps, happenstance, haphazard, and happen. It means chance, luck, or fortune. At least in English, we can’t help when describing one of our highest values to imply it results from luck or chance.

English isn’t unique, nor is language the only way our culture implies our values result from luck or chance. Here are a few examples where we ascribe to outside, often magical, forces important things. We ascribe to Cupid falling in love, to Muses inspiration, to the stars our fates. The Greek eudaimonia — an expanded concept of happiness relative to ours — has daimon in it, meaning minor deity or spirit. The aster in “disaster” means star, implying astrological origins to unfortunate (from fors, also meaning luck or chance) events.

I’m all for luck and chance, but not to rely on them for my most important values.

I have to get around to writing about the heart of my seminar — the Model for understanding how the motivational, emotional, and evaluative systems we inherited from our ancestors create value, meaning, purpose, passion, and so on; and the Method for acting on it. They’ll take more than a few blog posts to flesh out, but I’m working my way to them.

I’ll state for now, to follow up on later, that you don’t have to rely on luck or chance for you greatest values. In fact, the more you take responsibility to know your values and how they come about, the more you will bring them about and the more your life will contain them.

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