Joy is that moment you laugh at something funny (or perhaps schadenfreude) or just smile when you see something wonderful. You know it’s doing you good, as you feel the endorphins flow, and there is enough research out there to tell us that it is really doing us good. So it would seem joy is the best emotion to spend all your time in, or is it?
The American Declaration of Independence written back in 1776 has a line, “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness;” There is a lot of focus on that last bit, “the pursuit of happiness” which I am led to believe is now taken out of context. Apparently back in 1776, happiness was about an individual’s contribution to society rather than a pursuit of self-gratification. But it seems now everyone is running around self-gratifying, me included as a self confessed hedonist chasing powder snow around the world. Although since making my film (What ate my Mum? And will it eat me?), my hedonistic ways are giving way to a more balanced emotional life. Embracing all my emotions and not avoiding any bit of them.
Alex Huxley is famous for saying “The only thing man has learned from history is that man doesn’t learn from history” and I’m guessing this is because we are kept busy self-gratifying and not tapping into our sadness, or anger, or fears. It seems those emotions are important for learning, and should never be suppressed for the sake of joy.
Then of course at the other end of the scale I never ever want to suppress joy, take advantage of it at every opportunity, and look for it in every situation. It’s sad to see in some relationships ( as a couple or a parent/child), that one in the relationship makes the other feel guilty for having a good time. You know the one, where someone makes you feel bad because they are working long hours in a job they don’t like or are not well and you should be more empathetic to them and not going out experiencing joy. That’s where I dislike the term empathetic and how often it’s used to bring someone down, I would prefer to empathise up.
So I don’t suppress my own joy for the benefit of others, though I may not express it if the time is not right, and the greatest crime; I never ever try to suppress someone else’s joy, unless of course it’s inappropriate (causing pain to others).
I don’t prescribe to the statement, “delay gratification” as some sort of reward for work done. You can always do the ungratifying stuff later, if the sun is shining, or the waves are pumping or the powder snow awaits, enjoy now, stuff can wait.
Enjoy – joy now.
This post also appeared in Changing Habits, and concludes my thoughts on the 4 basic emotions.