Thursday, August 9, 2007

not exactly a joyful reflection

I’ve had many fantastic experiences in my life, and have enjoyed myself thoroughly, often to impressively destructive degrees. I’ve had fun, experienced pleasure, felt thrill and powerful senses of anticipation, certainly have felt surprise and even awe. I've felt great love towards others and a sense of mutual caring. But I have to admit: the concept of joy is one I don’t understand. I even have trouble describing what it might be: a profoundly positive sense of connection with the world, a momentary or lasting sense of that world as a wonderful place and my being part of it as wonderful also? Some kind of tremendous spiritual uplift or downward merging with the physicality of everything? It makes me want to laugh. Frankly, I’d be tempted to make fun of the idea as sentimental, self-righteous, self-deluded drivel, if it weren’t for my suspicion that the desire to trample on the possibility of joy is central to a great deal of the mistreatment of others that’s been so constant an element of human experience.

10 comments:

Small Fry said...

You're SO the man for me!

K. Silem Mohammad said...

I think it's probably just whatever you were feeling during those times when you "enjoyed" yourself thoroughly.

That sounds dirtier than I meant it to.

DUSIE said...

have a baby. . . really for me that has been the most joyous experience as of yet...as well as the most trying and difficult :)

DUSIE said...

oh, and by no means should my last comment read as a prescription... i think people find joy in many many different ways...perhaps it's the classification of such a 'feeling' that you remark on...

frankenslade said...

I think the Pere Ubu song "Navvy" - in its loose-limbed musical arrangement - expresses a certain kind of joy that I can tune into. A degree of self-absorption is involved, so beware. I also tend to experience the joy of competition better than other forms of joy (eg, being overrun by puppies or walking through a field of tulips).

douglang said...

Gutsy post.

When I hear someone say that somebody else obviously has no joy in their life, I usually go, ohmygod… I have no joy in my life.

I remember waking up after major surgery, after which I might not having woken up. That was joy.

But when I hear those purveyors of joy talk, I have do admit that I do not go to the supermarket, find my preferred brand of hot dog buns, and feel JOY.

So, I guess I'd better take my puppies out to see the tulips.

mark wallace said...

Thanks for these comments, everyone.

Several points: although I appreciate any expressed concern, no need to worry about me, not that any of you were all that seriously. I'm always surprised at how little the "purveyors of joy," as Doug puts it, seem to be enjoying much of anything. It's often a kind of piety that's a big old buzz kill.

Also, at least for myself, the concept is more than a little latently Christian: Joy to the World, Christ is coming to redeem us, etc. "A light that suffuses our whole being." Never been my thing.

I'll grant that it's one of those "big moment" phenoms, perhaps. Having a baby or getting a heroin habit are two common suggestions about how to go about it. Maybe hitting the winning home room or getting just that perfect sound for your band might work too. But I like Doug's idea best: want some joy, go have a life-threatening experience.

In the meantime I guess I'll just have to content myself with writing, reading, seeing friends, and adventuring all over the world. What a letdown!

Jordan said...

I've been assuming that "joy" could mean: a baseline affect tending toward the positive. Having faith that a positive outcome is possible, eschewing hopelessness...

mark wallace said...

Thanks, Jordan. Indeed "joy" could mean such a thing. But I'm not sure it necessarily means such a thing, or that if it does, it's the best way to describe such a thing. Feeling hopeful, having faith, and feeling joy are by no means obviously the same. For instance, I tend to feel hopeful more than I "have faith," especially since I'm skeptical not only of the religions underpinnings of the concept of "faith," (my personal concern, I'm sure) but perhaps more specifically because "having faith" requires faith in some thing, and until I know what that thing is, I'm not giving my faith to it. And of course we also have to be wary of the social demand that we MUST feel hope, a particularly insistent demand in the U.S.

"Joy," I think, is more a feeling (or at least a description of a feeling) than it is an attitude towards the future as such. It's something that has to be there in the moment. Still, it certainly has a demeanor towards the future. And I think it's that demeanor that concerns me; it's not at all clear that its demeanor is more about hope for others than it is about judgment of them. That's the paradox of all such positive feelings--that they can equally be used as a form of attack. Negative feelings can do the same, but I think people often seem less attuned to the degree of negativity that often comes through in deploying supposedly positive feelings.

Ryan W. said...

I suppose there's some kind of biological thing that happens, some chemical stuff, and some people call that joy.

it's worth considering how happiness might not always be the goal... but I don't really know what we're talking about, and nothing is likely to remedy that.

I guess I feel something like joy at some point almost every day. sometimes just for a couple minutes, sometimes a few hours or more on really good days.