Sunday, July 04, 2004
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
Remember that annoying Bobby McFerrin tune, used as the title to this post? Unfortunately, I do too. Well, here’s a more nuanced view on happiness, its history, and connotations. The piece mentions sages, throughout the ages, and their views on what it takes to be happy. I’m happy to share this excerpt.
“We need only think of the word itself: in every Indo-European language, the modern words for happiness, as they took shape in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, are all cognate with luck. And so we get ‘happiness’ from the early Middle English (and Old Norse) happ–chance, fortune, what happens in the world–and the Mittelhochdeutsch Glück, still the modern German word for happiness and luck. There is the Old French heur (luck; chance), root of bonheur (happiness), and heureux (happy); and the Portuguese felicidade, the Spanish felicidad, and the Italian felicità–all derived ultimately from the Latin felix for luck (sometimes fate). Happiness, in a word, is what happens to us. If we no longer say that we are kakodaimon when things don’t go our way, we still sometimes acknowledge, rather more prosaically, that “shit happens.”