Give Joy

This is an illustration from my as yet unpublished children's book, Play To Play.

This is an illustration from my as yet unpublished children’s book, Play To Play.

The question was, “What gives you joy?” People responded with things like, “family,” “the sunrise,” and “community.” Someone offered, “Other people’s laughter gives me joy.” There were nods of agreement all around.

It is hard for me to hear a question like, “What gives you joy?” and not think of Viktor Frankel. As a young Jewish man in Nazi Germany, he somehow survived years in a concentration camp. He emerged believing that, other than sheer chance, the line that divided the survivors from those who perished was a capacity to give meaning to life – as opposed to seeking meaning from life. He noted that the prisoners who sought meaning from the experience perished. Those who made meaning from the experience were more apt to live another day; they storied hope instead of looked for it.

Viktor Frankel famously wrote that, “Happiness ensues.” Happiness follows. It is not something sought. It is not found on the outside. Happiness is a response. It comes from within. We bring happiness to a moment. We do not get happiness from the moment.

Joy is like happiness. As I listened to the responses to the question about joy, I thought about the language of “seeking” and “ensuing.” In the English language it is hard not to create a paradigm of separation. We rely heavily on our nouns. Things are distinct. Dissimilar. “It” is found outside; “it” is located inside. “I give meaning” versus “I get meaning.” Give. Get. Either way, within or without, there is a line of division; “it” cannot be in both places. I wondered if the experience of joy and happiness (or sadness and grief, for that matter) are co-creations. I wondered if the language of us/them, within/without actually obscured the other option: we seek it and it ensues because we engage life. We open and life opens. Joy, like happiness, is generated in the relationship space, the space between, and in the relationship space there is no separation. Your actions and my responses are intimately connected. Where is the line between my action and the impact it creates?

After the conversation about joy, Kristi talked about being empathic. She said, “I can feel other people’s pain and then I carry it.” Earlier in the week, Kerri and I had the same conversation. She told me that she wanted to learn how not to take on other people’s stuff. I told her about the time I sought a teacher named Anna Christensen who showed me how to feel but not take on other people’s pain. “We are all empathic to various degrees,” Anna said. “Most people, to survive, need to numb their capacity for feeling. It’s necessary for most people because they need to know where they end and other people begin. They need the illusion of the individual. But, that comes with a cost; it creates the terrible experience of aloneness,” she added.

If other people’s laughter gives joy, and we can universally agree that is true, then my laughter and your laughter give joy to others. Isn’t it really just that simple?

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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