Joy so often seems to come in the form of an interlude. Not so much as a continuous stream, but rather something that comes and goes. It’s not necessarily like a light switch we can intentionally turn on, and for a great many people their joy moments seem utterly inaccessible.
I don’t think this is anything to be concerned about. We do, after all, have lots to keep ourselves concerned with on a day-to-day basis. We have the bills to pay, the food to purchase, the DMV visit, the doctor, the dentist, the oil change, and even the trip to the gym on those days we just don’t feel like it. Let’s also not forget the work we do that brings the financial resources necessary to take care of all the other stuff.
Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.” Could perhaps joy be like the yang to the yin, the soft landing to the hard, and sometimes-messy work of life?
Indigenous elders teach us that we should celebrate great works and achievements. That’s why every indigenous ceremony ends with a feast. The work of the ceremony is arduous and strenuous, and at times can be very emotionally challenging. Ceremony can test our patience and push our limits, and if we are worthy of the challenge, if we elevate within ourselves a willingness to face the challenge head on, then so too will our joy at the time of completion be elevated.
Could it be that the point of joy is to encourage us to engage with the hard work of moving through misery, pain, suffering, tedium, physical discomfort, fear, grieving, anger, and resentment? In this way, perhaps joy is not the goal, but rather the fringe benefit¬—with the goal being the hard work of moving through discomforting physical, mental, and emotional states.
Nature teaches us about renewal, as all things in nature are in a constant state of decay and renewal. Any time we attempt to tame nature and create permanence, it is only a matter of time before our perception of permanence is smashed in the face of fire or natural disaster or the slow decay of infestation or mold.
When we resist impermanence, we experience decay, disaster, and upheaval. When we embrace renewal (which is the whole point of most indigenous ceremonies) we move through discomfort to experience joy on the other side—interludes of joy perhaps, but joy nonetheless.
It’s the joy that can kindle a dull flame within into a raging inferno of renewal, change, re-invention, transformation, and yes, innovation.
May you experience a joyous interlude today.