J Is for Joy

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“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” —Emily Dickinson.

What gives you joy? A productive day of work produces a kind of quiet satisfaction, something to remember on waking the next morning as you begin afresh. But perhaps it’s not exactly joy, without some larger event or milestone to spark that ecstasy.

Simply living and enjoying those you love, of course—but seldom is joy unmixed with the strain and worries that life inevitably brings day to day.

Art and music, the pleasures of reading a good book or looking at a sunset—joy comes laced in the everyday. Sometimes joy requires a crowd:

http://www.viddler.com/v/b54c9028   [Allow for commercial first.]

Perhaps joy is that elusive quality that peeks around the corner when we’re doing what we most enjoy doing. It promises, it teases, but it seldom shows its full face or lingers for extended periods of time. Why?

William Wordsworth in the early 19th century saw the “decadent material cynicism” of his time as an impediment:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,


Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;


Little we see in Nature that is ours;


We have given our hearts away …

[Rest of the poem: http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww317.html ]

How can we get them back?

Can we REMEMBER that the “mere sense of living is joy enough”? It is difficult.

As in Dickinson’s lines about “hope”—described as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul”—joy seems equally flighty and elusive—but nonetheless real.

Joy is a subplot, a second narrative running beneath the plotline of my life, continuous as a heartbeat.

Something in the soul (I’ve felt it from my earliest days) at times both beckons and intuits—in a line of poetry, a smile or a delicious fact that suddenly asserts itself—that we are made for joy.

Call it Heaven or True Love or Fulfillment.

Once we have known even a brush from its passing—or caught its aftertones in the air—can we ever NOT believe?

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7 responses »

  1. “Joy is a subplot, a second narrative running beneath the plotline of my life, continuous as a heartbeat.”

    Isabel, once again you have given me the words to explain my experiences. I live a tense life in my mind, body and emotions but many times each day, an inexplicable joy bubbles up from my spiritdeep within me. But now it is not inexplicable; It is the subplot of my life.

    May I quote you. Even better, may I mke that quote my own?

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