Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Source of Joy

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” ― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Last week, I wrote about happiness and how it might be different than joy. I came to the conclusion happiness is circumstantial whereas joy exists outside of circumstances. If joy is not defined by circumstances, then it must exist in and of itself and must then be found and incorporated into my life.

So, how does one go about finding joy?

I think the first task one must accomplish is to define joy. If one doesn’t know what it is, how does one go about finding it?

I’ve given this some thought and I believe what brings joy is the belief that one is completely and utterly accepted and loved. When that happens, one finally feels as if he or she has value beyond what he or she can produce, achieve, experience or obtain.

Think about when you first fell in love with someone and they fell in love with you. It really didn’t matter what else happened in your life, did it? Difficulties at work seemed easier. Big financial problems seemed smaller. The problems were still there; they just didn’t quite have the power they previously enjoyed. Your circumstances didn’t dictate your feelings to you. Your internal joy was able to overcome the circumstances.

We run into a problem here, too. That person you fell in love with… is she infallible? Has he made mistakes? Do you still feel completely and utterly accepted and loved? Have you been treated kindly and patiently all the time? Do you have your mistakes brought up time and again long after they were made? Do you know, without any doubt whatsoever, that the person you love is totally sold-out for your well-being; that everything he or she does will be geared towards your ultimate good?

Is that person even in your life now?

If we consistently want joy in our lives, relying on the inconsistency of human loves seems a bit risky… even doomed to fail. We have no choice but to look beyond humanity to establish once and for all that each of us has value in and of ourselves, regardless of station in life, wealth, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, profession, education or anything else.

Does evolution provide the answer? I think evolution is the anti-joy. Evolution teaches us we have no value. We are merely random beings which evolved from soup and whose only purpose, if one could call it that, is to provide genetic fodder for future adaptations. Where is the joy in that? Where is the intrinsic value each of us possess?

I believe there is only one way to find joy. We must find an immutable perfect Source which loves us each individually and unconditionally. We must find acceptance in One who Himself is perfect. The Bible says God is unchanging. The Bible says God is perfect. The Bible says God is also madly, wildly in love with us. Each of us. Individually. God values each of us so much He was willing to sacrifice anything and everything to win our hearts.

All He asks is we let Him.

Am I Happy?

“I feel my best when I am happy.” – Winona Ryder

I’ve had a lot of drastic changes in my life over the last couple of years. As a result, I’ve been asked quite a few times whether or not I am happy.

Am I happy?

Good question… and how does one answer it?

I look back over my life and the times that stand out the most are the difficult ones. Marital problems, financial problems, health problems, parenting problems… a lifetime, it seems, of problems. Currently, I continue to face challenges and problems daily. Whether it’s slow business, relationship or parenting stress, holiday stress, etc., challenges and problems still exist.

I know I’m alone in this, right?

Problems will never go away, of course; they’ll only change. So, basing my happiness on the existence of problems or challenges in my life seems to be a guaranteed way to ensure I don’t feel happy.

Basing my happiness on the good times seems rather logical, then. The problem is, I can’t really remember the good times as well as I can the difficult times. Have I lived a life devoid of enjoyment? Of course not. But, I don’t really remember the times I felt happy or when everything just “went my way”. I know they existed and I can historically recall them, but I don’t seem to connect with them on the level at which I connect with the difficult times.

So, I can’t base my happiness on my difficult times… or on my good times. On what, then, should I base my happiness?

I think the answer is that happiness isn’t really what I’m looking for. Weird, huh?

What I need is joy, and I fear I’ve lost that over the years.

I believe happiness and joy are two different things. In my mind, happiness is the pleasure and emotion I feel during an enjoyable experience or period of time. Happiness is how I feel when good things happen to me and around me.

Joy, I believe, is something all-together different. Where happiness is dependent upon the circumstances which surround me, joy is internal and impacts my character, personality and – believe it or not – my happiness.

Where, then, do I find joy? If my circumstances will not bring about joy, then I must somehow find joy at a source which is independent of my circumstances and then allow that joy to impact my reaction to the circumstances in which I seem to find myself.

I’m not the first person to face this dilemma, of course. And I’m not the first person to ask these questions.

I’m definitely not the first person to propose a solution, either… but, I’ll attempt to do that next week.

“Hello, Pot? This is Kettle…”

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

I was watching TV today and saw a commercial advertising a dating site which was exclusively for black people. Now, before I go any further, I want to go on record as saying I have no problem with this at all. The idea of creating a site for a specific group of people is a non-issue for me.

However, it begs the question – what if I create a site specifically for white people?

I imagine the outcry which would arise from a site dedicated to white people meeting and dating.

“ – Because not everyone can look exactly like you”

There are currently dating sites for Christians, Jews and Muslims. That’s cool. I mean, hey… that stuff is important. It’d be difficult to be on your fourth date and find out how upset your Muslim father will be when you bring home that nice Jewish boy you met at the deli.

But a dating site specifically centered around race? Actually, that makes sense to me. It might be difficult for some people (regardless of ethnicity) to be around people of a different background or race. If you’re black and you’re more comfortable around black people, it makes perfect sense to be able to go to a site exclusively created to help blacks meet blacks. Asian? No problem. There’s a site for you, too! White? Hey… don’t be a racist, cracker.

Racism, by its very nature, is divisive. Where, though, is the division created? I don’t remember seeing a notice on other dating site commercials which said “No blacks allowed”. So, by creating a blacks-only dating site, the ones who are being divisive are the creators of that site and no one else. The users of that site are just gravitating to the site with which they relate the most. The creators of the site, however, created a tool which could be used to drive a wedge between their users and others who aren’t like them.

This trend has been around for a while (as has that site) and we see it more and more. Different ethnic groups unify and identify themselves in different ways. On the surface, there seems to be little harm in this. This is dangerous, though. I believe each of us lives in a world which is centered around how we identify ourselves. For example, if I identify myself by my profession, I tend to view others by comparing their profession to my own. If I identify myself by my education level, I view others through those lenses.

If race is the primary way by which a person defines his or her identity, that person will define others by race as well… are you my race or a different race? In other words, there’s “us”.. and everyone else.

In the end, I think racism has less to do with how we define others and more with how we define ourselves. By taking race out of our own identities, perhaps it will help take it out of the identities of everyone else. Then I’ll finally be able to stop wondering what kind of cracker I am… saltine? Graham? Wheat thin? I wish… I’d love to be thin.