What does it mean to life a life of joy? With suffering all around us (tsunamis, hurricanes, starvation, unemployment, AIDS, oh… how the list goes on), do any of us deserve joy? And what the heck IS joy, anyway? Is it the same as happiness?
Do you know that well-funded, well-documented studies have been carried out on “happiness”? (Think Harvard, for example.) We crave it! And if we “achieve” it, apparently happiness spreads like wildfire even to people we don’t know—to friends of our friend’s friends for example. Pretty cool.
Magazine article after magazine article. Talk show after talk show. In our culture, we long to and expect to be happy. (Some of us anyway. Others have given up all hope.) Are such expectations reasonable?
I’m reminded of sleep. We’re told we need eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. If we wake up in the middle of the night, some of us panic (myself included). How will I get through tomorrow if I don’t go back to sleep right now? Yet I’ve read that in days gone by uninterrupted sleep was not a given. People expected to be awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, and that was OK. They actually enjoyed it!
Also in days gone by, and in cultures other than our own, people expected/expect not to live a life of joy and happiness, and that was/is OK. Is it OK in 2010 in upper middle class America?
I don’t know the answer. I just know that when I am living a life of purpose, when I am feeling most passionate about my work, I experience a deep sense of joy. Sure, I have feelings of sadness flash over me almost every day. Like when I read about a tragedy in the newspaper. Or see something that tugs at my heartstrings. Or talk to a friend who’s going through rough times. We’re not talking a constant state of euphoria here. I’m simply saying that a life of purpose and passion leads to deep, abiding joy. It just does. Your thoughts?