Thursday, July 28, 2005

I have heard (and you probably have too) that the Greeks had four different words for love, and it is mostly true though not nearly as true as pastors and theologians would have us believe. Natalie has three different words for happiness:

Delight is sharp, piercing. It is ephemeral, but intense and hot and bright. Delight is a rush, the kind of happiness that stops up your throat and feels like it's about to come spilling out of your eyes. It can make the world fade away - or perhaps I will say it better if I say that the world folds itself up into a single object or feeling or sensation. I associate it with polkas that take your breath away and with redowa chases and especially passionate waltzes that crush the whole world into a circle of arms, with certain times when Esther Selene (I hope she won't mind my saying this) was in my arms or in my eyes.

Happiness is soaring, uplifting. It is broader and mellower than a mere moment, but higher and grander. Happiness can be wild and sylvan or tender and velvet, and it is not as intense as delight but higher and longer. Happiness if full of hope and of laughter and merriment. I associate it with being at Jammix after a long absence, with friends long gone and recently returned, with Christmas, and with the beginnings and end of adventures (adventure, you must remember, is a love word in Natalie).

Joy is deep and throbbing. It is broader still than happiness - so broad that time does not really apply to it. It is in your bones and deeper, low and humming across length and breadth. It is not hot and bright but it is full of power, so full that it is sometimes giddy and sometimes terrible. It can be like longing, but I think it is more like recognition of a profound hunger. Longing looks to the future and I think there is very little of hope in joy. It is what it is, crushing and terrible but soft and full of grace. I associate it with certain moments of worship, with remembrance of God, with obedience, with the family, with Blue Rose.

As long as we're on the subject I should make a few caveats as well. I do not associate any of these things with an opposite in the way that some people mean when they hypothesize that happiness and sadness are really two sides of the same coin. I can see that that might be comforting for some people when they are sad but for myself I think it is rubbish. I see that sadness can sometimes make us appreciate happiness (I mean it in the general and not the specific sense) more than we used to, but as I perceive it happiness is its own thing, and on the whole it is diminished by sadness rather than enhanced. If we required knowledge of sadness to have happiness by the nature of the thing, then I do not think happiness would be happiness at all.

Nor do I associate any of these kinds of happiness with enlightenment or wisdom, although I hope that I have made them sound as transcendent as they seem to me. For that matter I do not associate wisdom or enlightenment with suffering, either. I have met a fair number of people who have suffered more or less horribly, and none of them seem to have been made wise thereby although I consider a few of them wise nonetheless. I strongly suspect that several have been made more foolish.

Finally, I do not associate any of these things with satisfaction or fulfillment. I think I have had more than my share of both happiness and fulfillment, and I am now convinced that fulfillment is not to be found in happiness.

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