Euthymia

Focus Wolf is focused. ~ art by HIRAI Kazumasa

~ I love learning new words. It’s always random how they come about. I read a lot. So they do come. But always from the strangest places. Usually from articles, many times from *theory*, rarely from fiction.

For me, learning a new word is burdensome. But the good kind of burden, the kind that I enjoy taking on. The one where you feel challenged, momentarily, to a fuller exploration of the thing burdening you. There is pleasure in the pain to rid it from you with some kind of mental or physical action. It always includes that glorious feeling of the burden being freed from your shoulders, the weight cut, or absorbed, unto the clearest kind of satisfaction. In the case of words, it is that all-powerful urge to understand them, to contextualize them, to comprehend utterly how they are being used in the passage I pluck them from. {i.e. Lookin’ ’em up!} I wonder how they could be utilized in the future, how I might mix them into my own vocabulary, verbal or written, going from there.

After all, every single word describes and depicts. In them, one discovers the purpose and power of a continuous string of speech or writing. Some carry myriad interpretations, while others are hyper-specific. Every word has its own telos (one of my favorite words), so to speak. And so, in understanding them, one after another through a sentence or song, we come to better understandings of ourselves and our faculties. Then, when we wish to convey that self, or an aspect of it, we release the words again, shuffled with mental sleights to dole messages of our very own. This is what language provides.

In a recent reading, I netted a new word:

“euthymia”

*Pokedex voice*

The tranquility of knowing what you are after and not being distracted by others.

Or

“The belief that you’re on the right path and not led astray by the many tracks which cross yours of people who are hopelessly lost.”

Ryan Holiday, the modern stoic author, writes of this ‘tranquility’ as that of one of the Roman philosopher Seneca’s prime pursuits.

“I’ll say it clearly: You have to know why you do what you do and what truly motivates you to do it. Or I promise, it will cost you so much pain. So much wasted time.”

“Because the alternative is unknowingly assuming terms that you don’t really believe in.”
~ Ryan Holiday

And this is all aside from euthymia’s rather distinct medical definition:

Euthymia is defined as a normal, tranquil mental state or mood. It is often used to describe a stable mental state or mood in those affected with bipolar disorder that is neither manic nor depressive, yet is distinguishable from healthy controls. Euthymia is also used to describe the “baseline” of other cyclical mood disorders like major depressive disorder (MDD), borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). This state is the goal of psychiatric and psychological interventions.

Euthymia, for the variably ‘disordered’ (as described above), is simply the tranquility in between mania and depression. It is the baseline goal of psychiatric intervention.

In the same way, for any path-taking individual, euthymia could be described as the state of pathing without giving in to the distracting anxiety of the other potential paths.

~

The word euthymia is fascinating to me not just because it is new to me, or fun to say, but because the feeling it describes is so utterly foreign to me…

I’ve never been close to holding such a belief of actualized, real and true tranquility. With regard to ‘my path’, certainly not. I do not even think that way (maybe I should…). I don’t really see myself as ‘on a path’ at all, let alone one that is calmly golden and shining and composed and far afield the wayward realms of the people around me. There’s undoubtedly hubris within this word. But also a desire. Who would not wish for such ‘quiet confidence’ within themselves and their *path* they are on.

At its heart however, there is an inherently comparative nature to it. “My path versus your path.” But also there within its definition is an urge to ‘not be distracted by others’, or presumably their paths relative to yours. So much complexity within a single word… At the same that it compels the absolute knowledge of the path you take (yeah buddy! you are on one even if you don’t realize it), it also posits the existence of every other path around you, all the people around you, whether they be friends, competitors, those you see on your screens… You must mark your path relative to theirs — by definition your path differentiates itself along the lines of such comparisons — but then! at the same moment, you must avert your eyes from their existence, stay true to your purpose — your path — with the stoic conviction that the word compels. Ah, and there it — this silent tranquility — flows within the veins of your soul —euthymia!

~

Paths. Paths. Paths. The word has me thinking of a book I read many years ago now. Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card (yeah I know, some of his personal beliefs are bad!) The core feature of the science fiction trilogy on a distant alien planet peopled with humans is the main character Rigg’s ability to see, in real-time, the paths of the creatures in the world around him. Trailing from out of both humans and animals, there are multicolored, semi-synesthesia-inducing streams that only Rigg can see and decipher. In a feudal-agrarian society, he uses them along with his mysterious father to range through the wilderness and hunt animals to feed their village with. His power is governed by certain rules — he cannot see the paths of androids (which they come to find exist upon the planet), his father’s path, or his own path — and his power can be used along with other gifted, superpowered children to travel back in time!

It turns out that the paths he is seeing all around him are the distinctive after-images of the creatures that made them, and by focusing upon them with the time-slowing power of one of his companions, they can trace back these after-images to the original and interact with said person or animal. Thereby, they can enter the past, interact with that present, and then travel back to their future, generally changed in some way by their actions.

The novel is an intriguing young adult sci-fi adventure that I remember liking quite a bit. The adventure it crafts is one of humanity and history and of time’s incredible power to change people and environments. And it is about the paths we take, obviously… Rigg learns that you can learn a lot about a person when you consider the paths they take, where they go over time, and why. Aside from all the timey-wimey traveling the characters do making up much of the plot, the idea of that original power always stuck with me. What if you could literally see the paths of the people around you? What if you could explore a person’s actions utterly, the physical manifestation of their trails within the world? What might you learn?

Of course, technology companies are already doing this. Google Maps and Apple iPhones are constantly surveilling not just your online clicks, but your physical ones throughout the world. They profoundly understand the incredible value there is in such carrying out such constant tracking, for advertising and personal consumer choices.

But alas, reminiscing here on Pathfinder has reminded me of a dream I once had, one that likely neared my reading of the final book within that trilogy back in 2016 (titled Visitors).

Excerpt from the November 2016 dream journal ~

I’m in the courtyard of a mall with a small group of people. This girl is talking about “scripts” and our pathways in life. She says she can see them and knows about how we can alter the most common paths we are likely to take, if we wanted to. She walks around and points out certain paths she sees for each of us, she says if we concentrate and identify our own “paths” in this way, then we can avoid them or alter them. Once we have identified the most common path, we become more likely to take an alternate route…

Ah, so in this dream world — the insight in the identifying of your path is that we become more likely to take an alternate one…

So rarely do I dream with such specific memory of the concepts and language of a theoretical power such as this retained upon waking… There is a reason I still remember this dream, four years on.

This dream, this kind of power, fantastical yet so relevant, brings me back to such meditations upon euthymia.

What is my own path? Do I know what I am after? What might I do to comprehend it, and the paths of the people in the world around me? Certainly, I am on some kind of path, even if I cannot name it. Just the same, I must be aware of the paths within the wilderness of peoples about me. After all, their scripts may conflict or coincide with my own. Can I draft upon their coattails? Or maybe show some the way with my own steps onward…

Can I begin to ‘concentrate, identify, and even change’ my path? Their paths? How? When? Why?

What unassumed terms I am unconsciously accepting, as Holiday says, to my own time-wasting dooms…?

Ah, I love words, words, words.

All of it, food for thought. Potential paths to follow. ~

This is the path I choose. ~ Xenogears