English Language Committee: Happiness

“Good morning everyone. Hi. Yes, Good morning, hi. Everyone? Settle down, get your coffee and let’s take a seat. No, Jim go ahead and… yes finish pouring, then come over here. Ok, right. Yes.

Good morning everyone. I know this isn’t in the manual, and I know it’s Sunday. We work hard all week and I’m sorry I had to call this meeting. As you know, we’re a small group and relatively unknown. Nobody is aware that the English Language even has its own governing body. Many other languages have their own governing body: I mean, look at the Ulum Daska or Académie Française. But we exist and we’re important. Right. As we agreed when Ed and I founded this thing, English, namely American English has gone wild too long, like a bison… on a treadmill plastered with Webster’s… pages. You can’t trample the sounds we make to transfer meaning. They have to have shared meaning. The American spirit is about freedom, but there must be rules. We’ve got a constitution, right? Right. Yes.

Classically we’re gatekeepers. We remove or allow words into our great language. Usually we let ‘Pop’ culture or some subculture like the ‘World-Wide-Web’ or some dancing rap group invent words then we let them in or not.  But I’ve come across a matter that requires immediate action. So I called everyone in here today to discuss the emergency addition of a new word to the English language. Now, before you groan and I know, yes I know that’s a lot of work for us, let me explain. 

Why are we here, everyone? Not why the meeting, I mean what’s the purpose of lif…Put your hand down Gary, its rhetorical. What I’m trying to say is what good is our lucky spark of life on a congealed ball of dust hurling through a vacuum? I mean…why, right? And of course I don’t have an answer because ‘duh’ as they say, but we can agree that happiness is the goal, right? Any religion, any worldview, the goal is happiness, ultimately. Yes, okay question. Gary.

 I…I’m getting there. Right, but being selfless makes you happy? Right. I didn’t say self- let me finish. I didn’t say selfish, Gary. I’m saying It’s natural to avoid pain and look for happiness. Right, okay this is actually a good segue.

“Happiness” is a bad word, everyone. Every definition we come across agrees it is ‘a positive FEELING,’ or ‘a STATE of joy,’ or ‘a mental STATE of well-being.’ See? A POSITIVE WORD FOLLOWED BY A TEMPORAL QUALIFIER. Ha!

You see what I’m saying? Get me now? The English words we have for the thing every human wants are all soggy with time-sensitive qualifiers that say “for now” and “a brief mood.” 

Rewind your brains, everybody to two minutes ago. When I said, ‘any religion, any worldview, the goal is happiness, ultimately’ did you feel like ‘happiness’ was a good enough word there? No. Because it’s not.

And we’ve got ‘joy.’ ‘Joy’ is pretty good. But does it really cover that thing we’re so hungry for? That thing I was talking about. Notice I can’t saying anything past ‘thing’ since we don’t have a word for it yet. Yet!

The Greek had a word for it: ‘Eudaimonia.’ It was true, lasting happiness. In translated ethics books it’s just ‘happiness,’ but ‘human flourishing’ is closer. FLOURISHING, you guys. Eudaimonia means, literally, “A good demon.” You are possessed by this sense of good and fulfillment. Thirsts QUENCHED. Don’t you want that? Didn’t you just feel your gut budge a bit? I mean… to have all the things you want in life. Like a spouse and kids and a house and to not worry about the bills, but to feel like a person living out their allotted time here and DOING IT RIGHT. This needs a word, team. It DEMANDS one.

And I refuse to give up on this and just say it’s “indescribable.” Because I just described it. And the Greeks found a word for this so we can, too. Any questions?


O-Okay, I can see you’re a little tired, I gotcha. Ed and I kept you late Friday. I know, ‘Ed and Doug, the slavedrivers.’ That’s us. I mean…look, I don’t have a solution to this. You know what? Let’s just brainstorm on it, okay? We’ll spring this on Doug tomorrow. Great. Yes. You’re dismissed. Have a great Sunday.Talk it through with your kids, or…yea. E-u-d-a-i-m… you all got it. I saw you taking notes…

I ah…. well if anyone wants to get coffee or something and talk it… through.

Yes, I’ll ah… set the alarm, Angie. Thanks. Bye, guys.

…Doug? Do you worry sometimes that you’re the only one who gives a fuck?”