There is a very beautiful word that isn’t much used, in the English language. The word is confelicity.
If you’re like me, you wouldn’t have encountered it much either. It’s so rare that my spelling checker is complaining about it, as I write this post. Confelicity is delight in someone else’s happiness. It’s the very antithesis of a word borrowed from German, which you are more likely to have come across: Schadenfreude – happiness at someone else’s misfortune. Confelicity is the opposite of Schadenfreude.
I think it says something deep about our society that we’re more likely to have encountered (or even used) a word that means taking pleasure at somebody else’s misery than we are to have played with a word that engenders good feelings because something fortunate happened for somebody else. It speaks to a morbid egocentricity, doesn’t it? Why should we be more familiar with laughing while others are hurting, than smiling when things are going well for our friends? In reality, the world would be a nicer place if we had more capacity for confelicity, wouldn’t it?
Confelicity is a surprisingly powerful concept. Indulge me a little, if you will. In art, the ability to create works that give other people an emotional lift, or some other pleasurable feeling, is almost the entire purpose of art itself. Making a piece of music that others will dance to, or forever associate with key moments in their lives, is a remarkable feeling. It permits the artist to experience confelicity many times over, for a single work. It’s multiplicative. The same applies for painters, poets, sculptors, writers, you name it. Taking pleasure in making other people happy is often the sole reason an artist does what they do. It gives their work meaning and purpose.
Imagine if art criticism concentrated more on confelicity. Let’s say art criticism was geared toward recognising the confelicity in a work, or was written so as to cause happiness in both the artist and their audience, rather than tearing down the artist and their work, leaving them in shreds and bleeding, for the heinous crime of having tried to enrich and uplift the lives of other people. Much art criticism reduces to sheer bratty ingratitude, if considered through the lens of confelicity. It’s largely toxic and relies more on Schadenfreude. In that sense, it’s wholly destructive.
We seem to have a deficit of confelicity in the world, today. People generally don’t feel happiness at other people’s good fortune. In fact, they’re more likely to thoroughly resent it. How miserable and selfish can you get? But, it is undeniably endemic.
Think about how large multinational corporations are approaching their use of artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation. The ethos is to use these technologies against humanity, to reduce our well-being, in a tug of war for our souls, which they aim to monetise, so that they can maximise their profits. Where is their pleasure in making customers happy, in all of this? Given their public stances of putting the customer first, why do they not maximise their customers’ happiness and derive a sense of confelicity from doing so? It’s as if they are marketing in bad faith.
Does your government derive satisfaction from helping the people they govern thrive, or is their tendency instead to be punitive, prying, restrictive, cracking down and exposing people to austerity, so that ordinary lives are impoverished and miserable? What is their aim? Is it in any way confelicitous, or are they merely feathering their own nests by doing the bidding of a few billionaires, themselves wholly unconcerned with confelicitous feelings about humanity. Can you see how the attainment of confelicity could be a transformative goal, in business and public life?
There’s an old addage that it’s better to give than to receive. This phrase encapsulates confelicity (though it can be cynically interpreted to mean “do unto others before they do unto you”). In love and sexual relationships, there is very much more pleasure to be derived from making sure your partner is experiencing bliss than from your own feelings of sexual satisfaction. When both partners are taking care to derive happiness from their partner’s pleasure, the relationship is enhanced and strengthened. Confelicity is an aphrodisiac. It’s a turn on.
The world could change radically, if people spent more time seeking confelicity. It is a powerful antidote to envy and covetousness. Jealousy is dissipated. Imagine how the complexion of social media would change, if people had the aim of increasing feelings of confelicity. There would be fewer trolls, less rudeness, less offensiveness and fewer people deriving perverse pleasure from upsetting other people. Posting to increase confelicity, rather than for the nasty LOLs, would mean social media could become a more diverse, inclusive, safe place. Social media companies ought to take note, because at present, they are flirting dangerously with catastrophic context collapse and mass desertion. Nobody wants to be manipulated via their dopamine receptors, making people feel sad, lonely and unloved. Confelicity ought to be at the top of social media’s corporate key performance indicators.
When you come to think about it, how can you be an abuser or a predator, if you are practising the maximisation of feelings of confelicity? You can’t. It’s utterly impossible to be ruthless, pitiless and merciless, if you learn to regularly take pleasure in other people’s good fortune. Confelicity is, in essence, a manifestation of generosity of mind and spirit, yet it costs you practically nothing. Our current economic system, in contrast, has trained us, from cradle to grave, to pay no regard whatsoever to other people’s concerns or misfortunes, to crush rather than uplift and to regard any and all investments in other people, even through being pleased at their successes, as unbearable cost burdens. Our current economic system is brutal and nasty and denies that confelicity exists at all. Perhaps that’s one reason the word is so rarely used.
Imagine how confelicity moderates busy-bodies, who want to insinuate themselves into how you live your life (or how you create art). The straighteners, correctors and regulators of things that are none of their business at all fall away, if they adopt an attitude of choosing to cultivate confelicity. Less interference and meddling, through more delight at your happiness. How can you be censorious of anybody’s choices, if they make them happy?
The native Americans spoke of a malevolent spirit that infests minds, which they called “wetiko”. This, they held, lead to the destruction of everything, because of its selfish, greedy, insatiable behaviour; cannibalising every other living thing, in the service of having more. This is the mind virus that has become virulent in modern Western societies. Confelicity, of course, is an effective antidote, or moderator, of this spirit of the mind, which egocentrically is prepared to destroy a world it wants all to itself.
Confelicity encourages investing in each other, rather than cannibalising them and the living world. Wetiko-infected people asset strip the whole world, like a giant close out sale. Confelicity, in contrast, ensures that everybody has what they need, without destroying the abundance from which those needs are met.
Here is an excellent essay on wetiko: http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/seeing-wetiko-on-capitalism-mind-viruses-and-antidotes-for-a-world-in-transition/
In short, confelicity is the ultimate in non-toxic positivity. It’s a way of making yourself happy by ensuring that other people are happy first. Consequently, it’s a very nice way to live, encompassing gratitude and social support. What’s not to like?