Seek Ye the Hilaritas!


25 Responses to “Seek Ye the Hilaritas!”

  1. Stefan Jones says:


    “You can’t get away with murdering a clown.”

    – Lennie Brisco, Law and Order.

    #7: I love that definition. I’ve been there.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Also good term “Mensch” Yiddish for “good guy” but also one who simply by their presence makes you feel good.

  3. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Somebody emailed me and said she’d been looking online and there wasn’t much on “hilaritas” and where was my RAW source.

    I read it in one of his books, don’t know which one, applied to Leary. He also uses it, and applies it again to Leary, on the excellent 5-CD interview series “Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything.” On there, he says he first heard the term in Ezra Pounds’ Cantos, and that Pound says he got it from an obscure Greek philosopher Gemithus Plethon. I’ve searched on Robert Anton Wilson and hilaritas before and gotten basically nothing. I just searched on Pound and hilaritas and found the passage in Cantos 98 and a passage in a book about Pound (Ezra Pound and China), about his interest in the word:

    Cantos 98

    A soul, said Plotinus, the body inside it.
    “By Hilaritas,” said Gemisto, “by hilaritas: gods;
    and by speed in communication.
    Anselm cut some of the cackle, and relapsed for the sake of tranquility.

    “Pound adored the concept that the gods have ‘Hilaritas, the virtue hilaritas’ (83/548), a mirth and rejoicing that has at its roots a ‘sublime joy of wonder and intellectual love,’ and he cherished ‘speed in communication.’ The ‘mental velocities’ of the gods (93/652) he compared to the speed and arrow-straightness of ‘the wing’d fish under Zoagli’ (76/479) and to the grace and playfulness of dolphins: ‘Came Neptunus/his mind leaping/like dolphins’ (116/815).”

  4. bjacques says:

    Greek? That would be Comus, the God of revelry and feasts. Not to be confused Momus, the god of mockery who was kicked off of Mt. Olympus because he didn’t know when to quit. He had a pretty good second career as a Scottish pop musician, though.

  5. markmarkmark says:

    This is interesting because most Hillarys I know are kind of dour?

  6. Phikus says:

    Not mine! =D She perfectly exemplifies. Thanks for the serendipitous post Gareth.

  7. Gareth Branwyn says:

    That’s kind of true for me too, now that you mention it, altho I know one Hillary that’s something of an exception (locale DC-area newscaster Hillary Howard).

  8. eustace says:

    You shouldn’t give up on hilaritas just because it isn’t second nature to you. Like some other virtues*, all you have to do is practice it a little to want to practice it more.

    *Not all of them though – chastity springs to mind…

  9. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Serendipity — not really a virtue, but another wonderful life-quality that I love.

  10. Stefan Jones says:

    I try. But sometimes it is damn hard.

    I maintain a cookie jar at work. People put dollar bills in a can. I combine those with some of my own money and buy cookies to keep the jar full. On Monday I put two adhesive googly eyes on the jar.

    Today those eyes aren’t cutting it. They are just mocking me.

    Note: Clowns do not have hilaritas. They are hilaritas parasites. They suck it up with their red noses and store it in their big shoes. This is why children are afraid of them.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Seek Ye the Lulz!

  12. FAC33 says:

    #7 – I love Augustine. Even after he converted to Christianity, you get the idea he didn’t completely regret the fun he had as a yoot.

  13. daemonsquire says:

    The character, Poppy, from Mike Leigh’s most recent film, Happy-Go-Lucky (synonym?), for which Sally Hawkins won a Golden Globe, pretty well fills the bill for ‘hilaritas’, or for “a kind of playful knowing about the world”. I think the movie pisses off a large segment of viewers, tempting as it is to make the equation elsmiley does above (“hilaritas = simple-tas”, or should that be simple ass? Or is he referring to Latin roots? I dunno). Some complain that she “spends her whole life happy and silly”, even though the movie’s only an hour and a half long. I think the movie gradually presents how difficult it is to embody the spirit of Hilaritas. I saw it over Christmas, and made a new year’s resolution, to myself, to “be more like Poppy”. Turns out it’s no easier than any other self-improvement scheme. Your description, Gareth, that people like Poppy “seem to be having just a bit more fun on the slip’n slide flow of the Tao than the rest of us”, feels right; and it raises the whole nature vs. nurture question for me (to which I answer “both”: those happy-go-lucky people are born with a certain capacity, and circumstances have aligned for them to develop it further).

  14. Gareth Branwyn says:

    >Clowns do not have hilaritas.

    I agree, and I lived with one for years (Patch Adams). No offense to Patch, but I found myself uneasy with the whole clown shtick. There’s something extraordinarily passive-aggressive about it.

    The definitive meditation on clown repulsion is Mark Dery’s amazing “Cotton Candy Autopsy” in _The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium_ (Grove Press, 1999). I recommend this essay all the time whenever the topic of clown phobia comes up.

  15. hilaritas says:

    Peter Brown describes Augustine’s definition of “hilaritas” as “a mixture of intellectual excitement and sheer aesthetic pleasure at a notable display of wit.” This is the definition I always think of when I hear the word (and I hear it a lot, given my usual username.)

  16. Phikus says:

    Bevis. Uhuhuhhuhhuuuhuhhuuhhhuh…

  17. Phikus says:

    Anon@18: I can attest that my Hillary makes me feel better just by being around, but I think that is probably subjective. She says the same thing of me, though, so at least it is mutual.

  18. mdh says:

    next: Novice.

    Re: the post. Wow. Sweet. That spirit really blows my hair back.

  19. Takuan says:

    next: Gravis?

  20. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Oh wow. That’s a definition I hadn’t heard. I LOVE that! Fascinating.

  21. elsmiley says:

    Hilaritas = simple-tas

  22. Bob says:

    Very interesting. Has me wondering if Hilaritas had a Greek predecessor/counterpart as so many other Roman deities did. Here’s another point to ponder: Other cultures also had/have gods or goddesses of the sense of humor. In China I seem to recall the god of laughter and good humor was/is Budai (not exactly Buddha)

  23. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Yeah, Budai is the same as Hotei, whom I referenced in the item. Hotei is the Japanese version of Budai. Budai/Hotei is associated with mirth and merriment, and cosmic trickery, and is often depicted surrounded by children, as is Hilaritas.

  24. lorisgirl says:

    I think this goes a bit beyond being a good person. I love #7 definition. It seems to me to be a bit of that tickle you get when someone you like to speak to, because of their sharp and joyful wit, is around.

    Wit is probably the sexiest quality around.

  25. Daemon says:

    “A clown can get away with murder.” – John Wayne Gayce

Leave a Reply