(urth) happiness in The Knight

Nathan Spears spearofsolomon at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 16 07:34:02 PST 2005

I would say that defining happiness as the pursuit of one's desires is semantically
empty, because one can always say, "Of course you're pursuing that which you desire;
how else can one act?"  Talking about lower desire and higher, base and meta-, will
not help avoid this silliness.

In discussions like this I think it would be good to limit our use of the word
'happiness' to that feeling which ranges from emotional euphoria to contentment,
which is hard to define but everyone understands: that which is generally meant when
people say, "I'm feeling happy."

I can't think of a word that encompasses the state of mind Iowerth alluded to, of
moral fulfillment, when someone is caused pain and suffering because they refuse to
compromise themselves.  "Morally fulfilled" doesn't seem to describe their mental
state in the same way that "happiness" describes someone who is having fun or
feeling loved or what have you.  Perhaps the word to use, which is difficult to
bring up without all kinds of negative connotations in this age, is "righteous."  It
seems like a condescending jibe to say that someone "feels righteous," but if you
can't feel consolation in the fact that you are doing (what you believe is) the
right thing even as you die for it, then when is a good time?

> >Not at all. I've long been convinced that my (and everyones really.  They 
> >might not go about it
> >very competently, but it seems universal to me) chief desire was to be 
> >happy, and all
> >my desires should be subordinated to that goal.

That's why I think this statement is confusing.  I don't know whether by "happy" you
mean, "sensationally elated," or "loved," or "righteous," or whatever other zillion
things.  In (the semantically empty) one sense all your desires *must* be
subordinated to your desire to be happy; say rather that they *are*.  In the case of
"sensorial satisfaction as happiness," then you aren't elevating yourself much above
animals.  I don't think that's what you are saying, but my point is that it's very
difficult to know what you are saying.

> >Thus far, what seems to satisfy my desires, and also bring me happiness is 
> >knowledge,
> >and games & computers, and good literature like Wolfe's. And good oolong 
> >tea, but that is just me : )

This is a start, but it's more testimonial than anything else.  You haven't said why
these things make you happy.

I think Wolfe takes aim at this question in The Wizard Knight; it seems that people
of worth in his tale are people concerned with "right doing," and not with pursuit
of happiness as defined above.  I think Wolfe was saying that many times the best
way to know how to act rightly (which is to say, more like a knight; I think it was
obvious that everyone is called to knighthood) is to act like someone you know is a
knight, or is more knightly than you are.  So Able acts like Ravd until he is more a
knight than Ravd was.  Then his model becomes The Valfather's son.  The point I
think Wolfe was trying to make is that (even in a world of seven tiers with gods and
more gods) eventually we are trying to become like The Most High God, but He is so
far above us that it can be hard to know what He would do.  Wolfe makes this point
also in the parable of the angel and the rooster in BotNS.

I'm not trying to say that becoming like the Most High God doesn't involve
knowledge, and games and computers, and good oolong tea, and all sorts of other
things that make us happy.  Sometimes, though, as The Knight illustrates, it
involves less immediately (or never) pleasing activities.

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