“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher, Jesuit priest, paleontologist
David Brooks, esteemed New York Times columnist, wrote recently about the futility of seeking happiness rather than welcoming joy. In Our Daily Bread, so did David Roper, esteemed faith writer.
Why is the subject coming up literally everywhere, particularly in the blogiverse? I suspect it is because so many people are astoundingly unhappy. And, they don’t know quite why — even though their posts, protests and rallies offer a variety of reasons that have been around nearly as long as dirt.
Abuse. Neglect. Corruption. Lack of opportunity. Addiction. Poverty. Illness. Disability. Loneliness. Joblessness. Homelessness. Death. Climate change. Oppression. Bad hair days.
I’m not being funny on that last one. If I’ve learned anything by mid-life, it’s that happiness is a matter of perspective. To some — say, a middle-school girl — a bad hair day can bring on unhappiness that is close to despair. To someone else — say a soul-wise octogenarian — hauling around an oxygen tank may be a serious nuisance, but not a hindrance to joy.
Happiness vs. joy. There really is a difference.
Roper recognizes this. “…dissatisfaction is the rule, not the exception in this life … We can’t get complete satisfaction from anything in the here and now, no matter what we do.”
Brooks recognizes this. “It’s smart to enjoy happiness, but it’s smarter still to put yourself in situations where you might experience joy.”
I recognize this, although I don’t always live up to it. Joy. JOY. Jesus Others You. In that order.
May it be in my heart and my mind. May it hum around our home like theme music. May it be seen in my step and heard in the tone of my voice. And, may it seep out into the world around me until the very moment I exchange this world for one far better.