Recently a woman in my writing group said, “You guys are the absolute joy in my life,” which got me thinking. Certainly, she has had other greatest joys in her life, and I understand the hyperbole, but it made me consider the joy, in general, found in life.
Through personal experience joy is often found avoidance. It is the avoidance of the day-to-day redundancy, where we must seek endorphins to get through it. Not that all avoidances are bad, but some are. Alcoholics and drug addicts come into the destructive aspects of this avoidance, while non-problem drinkers, thrill seekers, meditators and nature lovers do not. There is joy found in books, streaming shows, relationships, growth/self-improvement and in travel. Sometimes joy is captured in just being a part of, or making yourself a part of a larger group.
We have to be a part of. Endorphins thrive on it. There is an interesting phenomenon here in Massachusetts every October. It is people traveling to Salem for Halloween season from all over the state, and country. The town even has a clever moniker, “Witch City,” and hell if that doesn’t sound like a theme park. Actually, it is kind of a theme park because people flock there in October as if it’s Disney World. An estimated 100,000 people travel daily to this small town to mingle around, wear costumes, or witch’s hats, to take in everything spooky or surreal. The town embraces this, because as we know, tourism equals money. We also know the true meaning behind Halloween has nothing to do with candy, just as the true meaning of events and witches in Salem has nothing to do with black hats, getting drunk and dressing up like Beetle Juice. Salem, though, certainly embraces this heritage with witchcraft shops, live mascots, which cross over to the High School and even the Police Department.
The reality of it is that Salem is famous for the Witch Trials which took place in the 17th Century which took the lives of over twenty innocent women. Most likely they were not witches, and more likely the victims may have had untreated seizure disorders, mental illnesses, and panic attacks—all things we understand today. For these medical issues, they were put to death, and this is something celebrated today. Imagine some sort of theme park three hundred years from now which might celebrate people who were put to death in Waco, Texas, at David Koresh’s compound, or the mass suicide hosted by Jim Jones from the People’s Church in the 1970s. Would we be angry at the thought of hundreds of thousands of members of not just the al Quada flocking to New York for a month-long celebration? I don’t think we are far off from anything this ghastly at any point in our future, but don't underestimate the sewer of which we call society now and where it may head to.
Today, off Charter Street, in Salem, there is a modest, yet dramatic memorial to the victims of the Witch Trials, but on social-media we see people posing next to the statue of Samantha from Bewitched. People get joy from this pop-recognition, not just from forming alliance with a television icon, but more so to be a part of the “It”.
So back to endorphins and Joy-Avoidance. Romantic relationships fit the bill of avoiding boring day-to-day life as well. Seems like many of us can’t sit on our own for one damn second without being having to be in one—as they complete us, right? We are either a part of or not a part of, good, or bad, when society measures us based on this one choice. Make the choice to be in a relationship and then only showing the joy of it in social media, then others can see what a good choice you’ve made. ‘Showing’ being the key word in that sentence..
Now back to the Joy, the one with the capital “J”.
Like the phrase, "Find Your Joy," JOY is in the eye of the beholder. Life offers choices and outcomes. It certainly relates to how people find joy in spirituality and organized religion. I’ve heard people say they speak to God, personify Him and speak of Him being their best friend. I’ve heard others talk about leaving their bodies during Transcendental Meditation, while in other sects, it is the care for the living Earth as central to the lives of all people.
You have the right to choose who you want to be and what to belong to, and also who are the ones that make you feel a part of. Spirituality often indicates growth and inner-peace but it is also a wonderful, often fulfilling avoidance, again from the boring and even troubling aspects of our society. We reach for all of these Joy-Avoidances because both Joy and Avoidance are holding one another’s hand. Without Joy-Avoidance it’s difficult to deal with what are we are actually left with, which is this thing we call life.