A big part of the human experience is our ability to experience joy. Experiencing joy has been proven to increase blood oxygen levels, ease anxiety, boost the immune system, and trigger endorphins. In the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, the word “joy” appears 155 times. The word ‘joy’ and the word ‘happy’ are inter-changeable when it comes to translation of Scripture. One of the Hebrew words that can be translated as ‘happy’ is ‘ashrie’ or ‘praiseworthy’ or ‘fortunate’.
Take a look at this photo and tell me you don’t feel some sense of joy. In Buddhist teachings happiness forms one of the central themes and describes the ultimate freedom from suffering.
This is Pastor Trey Hall of Urban Village Church in Chicago. He is skipping with his niece at the labyrinth at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. I don’t know the story behind it and I didn’t bother asking him because the image spoke volumes to me by itself. I figured I didn’t need to ask the artist to define the drawing – I would simply allow the piece to speak to me, to reach out to my heart and write upon it what it may. Regardless of the actual event the photo brings a smile to my heart – it makes me feel joy. I cannot help but to smile and not because I see a grown man skipping – that is the least most interesting thing about this photo. What touches my heart, what speaks to my soul and what nourishes my spirit about this image is the existence of pure joy.
Do you like to dance when no one is watching? Do you like to sing in the shower because of the solitude it brings? Have you ever skipped just for the fun of skipping? I like to think that God is dancing with us. That when we sing alone, God is quietly harmonizing alongside us. And when we are skipping down the pathway, child-like regardless of our physical age – God is skipping with us.
Aristotle, in the writings Nicomachean Ethics, states that the only true thing that humanity desires is happiness for its own sake. We pursue money, fame and riches in order to acquire happiness but Aristotle says that true happiness is something we desire, we yearn for, for its stand-alone merits.
The finding of joy-filled moments without the influence of power or wealth or status, seems to me to be a treasure worth saving. There are many forces in this life fighting to remove joy from us and fill it with other contents such as exhaustion, depression, sadness, anger, and pity. We spend so much of our energy, at times, trying to make joy happen. It’s when we find a joy-moment completely void of any outside influence that we experience a taste of purity of the human spirit and therefore the God-spirit within all of us.
I recently met with someone who told me that he believed he would not have joy until he suffered enough to appreciate it. My heart wrinkled. In his book, The Fault in Our Stars, writer John Green says this is “an old argument”. He goes on to say that “…the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.” Jon Krakauer states in his book, Into the Wild, that joy is everywhere and all around us, placed there by God. “We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living”.
Experiencing joy means pushing aside all that you expect of yourself and all that you think is expected of you and to dance like no one is watching – to sing in the shower loudly – and to skip down the path if just for a few steps.
“If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”…Dr Seuss