When you’ve had joy, you want it again. That’s what C. S. Lewis said. Joy is addictive. Fortunately it is also good for us.
Capturing joy is a little like approaching squirrels. When one of our grandkids spots a squirrel, they lunge toward it. Inevitably the squirrel runs away. If we can get them to sit peacefully and watch quietly, the squirrel will settle in nearby. Joy gets closer and closer.
When we chase joy directly, it eludes us. When we peacefully and faithfully watch God work, joy comes closer and closer. So joy isn’t something we seek directly. Joy is the natural byproduct of being connected with the Divine.
Joy is also unique in that it operates on a spiritual economy where abundance rather than scarcity is the natural state. And joy is contagious. Your joy does not rob me of mine. Just the opposite. Seeing your experience of joy can fill me with joy.
I would like to understand joy better. I thought I might try to collect some thoughts and ideas under three general heads:
- What is joy?
- What can we learn from our joy histories?
- What principles are essential for a joyous life?
- How can joy help us live better lives? (I call this Joy Mapping)
A growing science of joy
I have been surprised to find that even respected psychologists are interested in stuff like joy. Jonathan Haidt, a remarkable psychologist,studies scientifically something he calls elevation. See if this definition doesn’t sound suspiciously like the workings of the Spirit—and something we call joy:
- an eliciting or triggering condition (displays of charity,gratitude, or other virtues);
- physical changes in the body (“dilation” in the chest);
- a motivation (a desire of “doing charitable and grateful acts also”);
- and a characteristic feeling beyond bodily sensations (elevated sentiments). (Happiness Hypothesis, Page 195)
As I work on ideas about joy, I wonder if you would share your thoughts about what it is, what we learn from our joy histories, the essential conditions for a joyous life, and how joy can help us live better. Are you willing to share?