One important source of happiness is intellectual gratification. Satisfying your curiosity, mastering a new subject, acquiring a new skill – these bring intense happiness. Also, intellectual gratification doesn’t necessarily involve other people. It’s clear that a critical – perhaps THE critical – element of happiness is strong bonds with other people, but I, for one, also enjoy retreats into solitude.
For me, discovering unexpected patterns and echoes among people’s behavior is enormously satisfying. I love the identification of universal, unifying characteristics.
That’s why I love brilliant, mind-blowing books like A Pattern Language, lots of work by Carl Jung and Mircea Eliade, The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook, The Golden Bough, The Accursed Share, and Crowds and Power. In law school, I was fascinated by the idea of “Restatements” of law.
So I was thrilled to discover a list by Lord Raglan, from The Hero (1936), in which he identified patterns in the lives of heroes. He found twenty-two archetypal features shared across the hero-myths of many cultures.
1. The hero’s mother is a royal virgin;
2. His father is a king, and
3. Often a near relative of his mother, but
4. The circumstances of his conception are unusual, and
5. He is also reputed to be the son of a god.
6. At birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or his maternal grand father to kill him, but
7. He is spirited away, and
8. Reared by foster-parents in a far country.
9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but
10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future Kingdom.
11. After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast,
12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and
13. And becomes king.
14. For a time he reigns uneventfully and
15. Prescribes laws, but
16. Later he loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects, and
17. Is driven from the throne and city, after which
18. He meets with a mysterious death,
19. Often at the top of a hill,
20. His children, if any do not succeed him.
21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless
22. He has one or more holy sepulchres.
To see this framework applied to the lives such as Krishna, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, King Arthur, Odysseus, Zeus, and Harry Potter, check out an analysis by Professor Sienkewicz of Monmouth College.
Why does this kind of thing make me so happy? It just does. And the challenge of this kind of interest is that I can’t just walk into a library and head to a certain shelf, or run a search on the internet. I have to stumble across it, so the joy of finding something is rare and intense.
Speaking of the happiness of satisfying your curiosity, I’ve always been curious about something I’d heard about (I think there was a movie?): that in World War II, a group of “Code Talkers” used their Navaho language to communicate in an unbreakable mililtary code. Yipppee, I found an article on Gimundo that was was just long enough to satisfy my curiosity.
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