Joy – the story so far
In Part 1 of this post, we began to explore the differences between happiness and joy. For a start, the two words began life a long time ago from very different standpoints.
Happiness seems to have arisen through the rather random experience of luck (“It just happened to turn out that way”), whereas joy was associated with much more meaningful dimensions, such as thankfulness, generosity and forgiveness.
So you could say that happiness is about what we get, whereas joy flows from giving.
Teaching us about joy
One man who taught us a lot about joy was CS Lewis, well known for his popular children’s books, the Narnia Chronicles. He actually called his autobiography “Surprised by Joy”, as he tried to convey how his experience of Joy was from his childhood his central passion. He experienced it as a powerful longing, describing it in this way:
It is an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure.
Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them: the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that…it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief (my italics).
Touching into something deeper
It was as if Lewis recognised that this “joy” touched into something much much deeper than everyday “happiness.”
But he saw it, not as an end in itself, but a means or signpost to something else – something not discovered through the pursuit of happiness or pleasure, but as a by-product of another kind of quest altogether, one that taps into the deepest longings of the human soul.
We all possess deep longings, and most of them are for connection of some kind – to another person, to a place we can call home, to groups that we can belong to, and to something beyond. Without them, we end up lost and lonely – which is the experience of many people today.
Perhaps pursuing joy over happiness will take us in a more satisfying direction. What do you think?