Flashes – How is your quest for JOY coming?

Bobblehead DollLong before I read Leo J. Muir’s book, “Flashes from the Eternal Semaphore,” I knew I wanted to find joy.  But, I was stuck; what is joy and how do I identify joy were my first two obstacles.  Yet, from many sources comes the following, in many different forms:

Man is that he might find joy.”

What is Joy?

An appeal to the dictionary confuses joy and happiness, forming part of the problem where understanding joy is concerned.  The closest definition for joy coming from the dictionary is to define joy as an ecstatic feeling, pleasure, or deep satisfaction.  But, if a person goes around chasing a euphoric feeling, they will be disappointed in pursuing joy.  If we consider joy as not an emotion but the result of an unexpected event that creates feelings of peace and contentment, then joy is more fully understood, but the quest for joy becomes more challenging to pursue.  How does one pursue an unexpected gift?

Christians, and some Jews, share a description of joy as a “good feeling in the soul, produced by a visit from the Holy Ghost (Spirit); thus, joy is felt as a consequence of a visit from another being.  However, unless you pursue education into those religions, you still might not fully grasp what joy is and why we seek joy so ardently.  One of the most straightforward descriptions for joy comes from the writings of Pope, an English author from the 16th century who wrote:

Reason’s whole pleasure, all the joys of sense, lie in the three words –health, peace, and competence.”

Hence the pursuit of joy is gaining health, peace, and competence.  So we can conclude that joy is found in possessing health, peace, and competence, as a consequence or good feeling stemming from achieving these three items.  Now, I know someone will get bent out of shape here; what if I have poor health, how can I pursue joy?  The answer lies in understanding peace and competence as co-equal parts of health.50+ Joy Quotes - a Perspective on Life | iCreateDaily | Quotes

Recently on YouTube, I watched an amputee discuss their amputation, health, peace, and display their competence.  One could argue that losing a foot is poor health, yet this person glows with good health for having joined health to peace and competence.  By the same token, I know several people who possess poor health, are depressed from not finding peace, and are not competent.  While working with mental health patients, I met a person in a wheelchair who cannot walk, can barely speak, and this person chooses to live on the street in misery.  This person has plenty of money for an apartment but chooses to live on the street eating from garbage cans in abject misery.  Thus, we can see the need for combining health, peace, and competence to obtain joy.  One might even define joy as a consequence of choices that build a life.  However, and this is critical, the feelings of joy are internal!

Imperative to understanding joy as a consequence is the need to grasp that joy is an internal feeling of ecstasy, delight, and wonder while dependent upon health, peace, and competence.  We cannot understate this importance nor overstate the criticality of joy to the combination of health, peace, and competence.  I have met very depressed people who possess competence but cannot find joy.  I have met people with great health and who are miserable.  Possessing one or two of these components does not disqualify you from obtaining joy or pursuing joy, but lacking all three will not produce joy in any quantity or with any staying power.  Joy is not an event in life but a collection of events from life, where “everything just clicked.”50+ Joy Quotes - a Perspective on Life | iCreateDaily | Quotes

Finally, it must be expressly noted joy is not an emotion; thus, joy cannot be chosen from a list of emotions to fit circumstances.  Since joy is not an emotion, this is where happy and joy are most often confused.  If an external event occurs, and health, peace, and competence are not present, happiness, not joy, is being felt or experienced.  If health, peace, and competence are present, and the feeling of joy swells inside, independent of all other factors, then joy is being experienced.

Case in point, in the US Navy, I served in a toxic working environment as a highly competent sailor.  I possessed health and, through inner strength, enjoyed peace inside myself.  Frequently, I would experience joy, even though external elements and environments appeared expressly designed to “make me miserable.”  By choosing to disallow an external event to choose my emotions, peace was mine, and joy was a consequence.Joy Quotes 3 | QuoteReel

Another English author from the 16th century was Edward Young, who concluded the following:

On the soft bed of luxury, most kingdoms have expired.”

What is happiness?

The definition of happiness is as convoluted as the definition of joy.  Consider the following: “Any state of being, having considerable permanence, in which pleasure predominates over pain.”  Yeah, that’s going to help a person understand!  Sarcasm aside, the definitions of happiness also include some interesting aspects for consideration: fortuitous aptness or fitness, grace, beauty, and felicitousness.  Happiness is also the quality or state of being happy, as if that actually helps.

Happy, the root word of happiness, is defined as cheerful, willing, possessing good luck or fortunate, a marked pleasure satisfaction, or showing the same.  What the dictionary skips, and the elements needed for understanding happy and happiness, is that being happy relies upon external factors and is a choice.  We choose to emote happy or happiness based upon external forces, societies, people, events, and environments.Spread Happiness Quotes. QuotesGram

Steven Aitchison is quoted as saying, “Happiness begins with the decision to no longer feel sad.”  Is it clear that happiness, like all emotions, is a choice?  The importance of choosing our emotions cannot be understated, and many of life’s biggest problems would disappear if we chose better emotional responses to external stimuli.  Aristotle provides the final word on happiness:

True happiness comes from gaining insight and growing into your best possible self.  Otherwise, all you’re having is immediate gratification pleasure, which is fleeting and doesn’t grow you as a person.”

What is the difference between Joy and Happiness?

Of a truth for certain, confusing Joy and Happiness leads to despair, misery, and failure.  Please keep the following clearly in mind; happiness is external.  Happiness is based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts.  Happiness is connected to your hope.  Believe it or not, the following observation is not religious thinking, faith builds hope, hope builds charity, and charity is nothing but an outward action of an inner commitment (faith).  Happiness is faith and hope expressed for everyone to see.  Put the words in any order and use a thesaurus.  The result never varies; happiness is a consequence (resulting from) of faith and hope combined into action, and others might call that action charity.Quotes about happiness

If further questions arise about distinguishing between joy and happiness, please review the above definitions where I have attempted to clarify the delineation.  One essential factor in pursuing peace is time to reflect, which promotes peace and distills into competence.  Competence breeds from education (formal and informal) applied over time and understood through reflection.  Peace is stability, mental calm and derives from reflection and additional education (formal and informal).  Health can be physical, mental, and spiritual, but of these three, mental and spiritual are more important than physical health.  Again, when combined, independent of all external forces and environments, joy is the consequence, not happiness!

Please allow me to point out something truly obvious when a person wishes you joy, they generally also include happiness as an addition to their blessing.  For example, the Whitney Houston song whose lyrics claim:

I wish to you joy and happiness.  But above all this, I wish you love.”

Thus confirming that joy and happiness are two distinct and separate entities.  The US Constitution allows and encourages a person to pursue “Life, liberty, and happiness” as inalienable rights.”  Joy is not included!  Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying:

The US Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.  You have to catch up with it yourself.”

The Quest for Joy

The quest for joy begins with education (formal and informal) as a building block for competence and to begin the process of finding peace.  While influenced by external factors (drugs, alcohol, disease, viruses, bacteria, etc.), health requires mental and spiritual inputs and is not content without peace.  Choosing to accept physical limitations is part of building mental and spiritual peace, and the human body cannot long survive without mental and spiritual health and peace, but the body can long endure physical health problems if mental and spiritual health remains.Meme Quotes » Happiness

Another truth becomes evident when questing for joy, “Joy dwells in the ordinary.”  Consider this for a moment; a person gives another person a flower.  Ordinary, simplistic, and yet this giving provides joy to the giver and receiver.  How swift and fleeting is the happiness of Christmas, where the gifts are generally more extravagant, costly, and luxurious, but a simple flower can spark a world of memories.

Why bees & biodiversity benefit from indigenous wildflowersMy granddaughter, a toddler at the time, and I took a walk.  She found a wildflower in the midst of thousands of other flowers on this walk which was important to her.  Upon our walk concluding, we pressed that flower into a book.  The time spent with her remains a cherished memory for me, and when I see wildflowers, the memories of this walk and flower pressing come back readily.  Truly, joy is found in the ordinary!

Elbert Hubbard reminds us that:

Ozone and friendship will be our stimulants – let the drugs, tobacco, and strong drink go forever.  Natural joy brings no headaches and no heartaches.”

Why; because natural joy combines health, peace, and competence into a powerful force.  No further stimulation is needed or wanted.  Bulwer Lytton provides the best flashing sign for contemplation:

We lose the peace of years when we hunt after the rapture of the moments.”

What will you sacrifice in the quest for joy, the peace of years, or the rapture of moments?  One of the most miserable people I have ever met chased rapture in the moments and could not understand why chasing momentous euphoria did not lead to anything other than the chase for more rapturous moments.  Like any drug, the mind and body build a resistance to the drug over time, and more and more of the drug is required to obtain a similar experience.  Be the drug sugar, chocolate, heroin, cocaine, tobacco, alcohol, etc., the pattern is the same, and the consequences are the same.  Depression, anxiety, addiction, destruction, call the consequences what you will, chasing the rapture of moments is death.

We conclude with the following from Robert Louis Stevenson, may his words ring out on our journey for joy as a beacon and a sounding board to base decisions upon:

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauties, nor failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he has; whose life is an inspiration; whose memory, a benediction.”

May your quest for joy be fruitful!

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

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Christmas and Other Holidays – A Frank and Open Discussion

I am unapologetically a Christian, I regularly attend church, and I exercise faith through daily scripture reading, prayer, and other works synonymous with being a Christian.  Being a Christian, I embrace freedom, especially freedom of religion; “Let [all people] worship how, where, or what they may.”  I am not smart enough to tell anyone, convince anyone, or try to force anyone to believe anything.  As a point of fact, my articles very specifically encourage you to find your answers, much as I have done, through study, learning, and faith.

Yes, this is a discussion!  I do not understand Christmas in any way, shape, or form; while this also applies to all accepted holidays, Christmas is my focus.  If you understand Christmas better or any holiday mentioned, feel free to teach me so that we both may learn more perfectly.  Christmas, as a child, was only once a time of wonder.  I remember that Christmas; I must have been 6 or 7 years.  I do not remember what I got for Christmas, but I remember how I felt.  I have not felt similarly since, and while I know why, I do not understand how to put the wonder back into Christmas.

Annually, Christmas, New Year, and the rest of the mid-winter holidays are a time for deep depression.  I struggle to feel anything from Halloween to mid-February; think London Fog as a mental condition, and your close to understanding what is happening between my ears annually.  As a child and teen, the holidays were always a time of stress, increased drama, and tons, and tons, of dishes.  The holiday season brought increased torment as parents’ stress (especially) resulted in increased violence (physical and mental).  Thus, I learned not to appreciate the holidays but loath the workload, violence, and abuse and view the holiday season as a time of greater pain and suffering.

Don’t even get me started on how to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day.  There are holidays, and choosing to celebrate or not is just as important as how to celebrate and whom to celebrate.  The biggest mistake society makes is trying to force everyone to celebrate the same holiday!

As an adult, mainly due to the depression, I avoid stores between Halloween and mid-February, like the plague!  The music of “Christmas” does not lift, and I find it difficult to hear.  To me, the people during Christmas are more challenging to be around.  I do not understand their choices and changes in attitude, their happiness, nor share in their wonder and excitement.  The pagan beliefs Catholicized into Christmas traditions blow my ever-loving mind!  I do not see Christ in a decorated “Christmas” Tree or other Christmas pageantry.  Simply put, every Christmas Tradition, generally accepted by Christendom, is stolen from mid-winter pagan holidays.  As I have studied the origins and beliefs inherent in Christmas, Easter, Halloween, All Saints Day, etc., I see more and more of the historical imprint of early Catholic Church leaders, and I stand aghast that these beliefs have turned into traditions that bind and hold fast the human mind.

Yet, to not wish someone else, especially another Christian, “Merry Christmas” is to be judged less a Christian.  I do not understand!  I believe in Christ; I believe in and have a knowledge of his reality, birth, life, death, resurrection, and visitation to all the Twelve Tribes of Israel after his resurrection.  I accept Christ as my Savior and advocate before the Father.  But, I do not understand Christmas celebrations or why these celebrations “speak of Christ, rejoice in Christ,” or promote Christian beliefs!  I understand the underpinnings of, and like the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.  I see Christ in this celebration of lights and appreciate those who celebrate this simple holiday simply.  But Hanukkah is not a holiday I can fully enjoy either, not for the lack of trying.

I have the same problem with Passover, not for the lack of trying, but I cannot celebrate this holiday, for I feel something is missing.  Easter, will someone please explain to me the lines of logical congruence between a bunny rabbit laying eggs and the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  None of the “traditions” of Easter make a lick of sense to me.  While I feel different at Easter than I do with any other holiday, I do not celebrate this holiday either, even though I respect and honor, follow and try to emulate Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, advocate, and hopefully friend.  While we’re on the topic of incongruent traditions, Santa Claus creeps me out!  The fear of being judged without an advocate or appeals process is anti-Christian, but Santa Claus continues to play a fearful role in Christmas.  Worse, the mysticism prevalent in a belief in Santa Claus fills my mind, not with Christ’s giving of himself, but of Halloween!  Tim Burton’s movie, “Nightmare Before Christmas,” is closer to how I see Santa Claus, put him in Halloween, and leave him there!

Yet, here we are, another Christmas celebration is upon the world, and I do not understand!  I like the lights of Christmas and enjoy them year-round, but they are not symbols of Christ lighting the world; they are just lights to me, with no particular holiday attachment.  I am a foodie, but food is just that, food.  No special holiday attachment; worse, as a diabetic, I have to watch how, when, where, and what I eat.  There is no fun in that, no holiday significance, and frankly, no joy in Mudville.

A friend declared, Christmas is about love.  What is love?  I know from significant study what love is not.  Love is not sex!  Love is not punishment, abuse, torment, and throwing all the dishes out of the cupboard and forcing a young child to wash every dish in the house repeatedly until that dish somehow passes an arbitrary level of cleanliness, with frequent beatings for failure to meet that level of cleanliness!  Love is not inflicting pain, causing tears, and being violent.  It has been easy to identify what love is not.  But defining what love is, what it feels like, and how to share love, I have no clue!

Often, I am referred to as a “Cold-Hearted, mean, bastard,” many times, other adjectives are thrown in to describe me.  I wear a “bar-sinister” proudly; I am a bastard!  I fight this nature of myself every single day; sometimes I win, more often I lose.  Sometimes I have thought, maybe this aspect of my character is why I cannot fathom the meaning of holidays, find wonder, or experience joy as readily as others.  Sometimes I think the method of how I was raised is inherent in being that bastard I despise.  Yet, I am a survivor because of the ways and manners of my childhood upbringing, and I have gratitude for being a survivor.  Meaning somewhere in there is gratitude for how I was raised and being a bastard.  I fully appreciate how paradoxical that thinking is.  Remember, a paradox is where two points that appear contradictory at first glance but in deeper understanding are closer than they are apart.

What does being a bastard have to do with Christmas and celebrating the birth and life of Jesus Christ; thankfully, I can answer that question.  Only in and through Jesus Christ can my nature change.  That single hope is precious to me, remains an impetus in motivating me to change, and powers my striving.  Without the birth of Christ, there could not be a death and resurrection.  Without the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, man could not change his nature, understand and possess freedom, or comprehend the higher laws of giving of self, choosing a different method of living, and rising above the natural man and comprehending why man has to rise above his natural beliefs into a higher understanding.

Yes, I celebrate Jesus Christ!  Make no mistake; I am grateful for my Savior; but, I do not understand Christmas!  I cannot fathom a celebration of Easter as currently celebrated and understood in Christendom.  I long for further light and knowledge to more appropriately commemorate the birth, life, reality, resurrection, and example that is Jesus Christ!  I know that only through the merits, mercy, and justice of Christ can I eventually gain the further light and knowledge I seek.  Please don’t think I do not celebrate when I wish you the happiest of holidays; it is an honest expression of a heartfelt desire for you to celebrate and worship how, where, when, and what you may.  Please understand, though, I am not participating, not because I do not believe, but because I do not understand.

A well-intentioned person told me to “Fake it until you make it.”  I have tried following this advice, and while it worked in other aspects of life, I learned more, and faking it stopped working.  Where holidays are concerned, I cannot “Fake it, hoping to somehow, make it.”  Faking it requires a method of belief with a hope.  I have hope and knowledge; thus, I do not have a belief, or reason to believe.  In possessing knowledge, my belief can take wing with confidence, and in that understanding, I can no longer “fake it.”  As a respecter of religious belief, and as a seeker of light and knowledge, there have been times I have thought how easy it could be to be an atheist; but, in possessing knowledge, I understand I cannot live without the belief and knowledge of a Savior, a Heavenly Father who had the sense to hand man laws, cover his mind with a veil of his past life, and tell man to live by faith.  The atheist cannot understand the value in living by faith, for they choose not to believe, even when presented with evidence.

C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, speakers, and characters from history. He understood the chasm between choice and the consequences of choosing not to believe and live according to beliefs. Mark Twain is another character, author, and speaker who I deeply admire and appreciate, for many of the same qualities exhibited by C. S. Lewis, are found in Mark Twain.  Thus, we find both an exemplar of the principles discussed and another issue with the holidays.  Knowing what I know regarding the origins of the holidays, the traditions adopted and Christianized, and the chains which bind from traditions, I struggle with celebrating holidays.

As a child, I asked why do we decorate a Christmas Tree?  After removing all the religiosity, the answer was because their parents did it that way.  Why did we feast; remove the religiosity, and we find it’s because everyone else celebrates holidays (peer pressure and traditions) with feasting.  In the movie and play “Fiddler on the Roof,” the primary character sings, discusses, and lives under the iron fist of tyrannical tradition, and I am left with one question, “Why?”  Why do something just because it is tradition?  Jesus Christ brought freedom of conscience; believe how, when, where, and what you may, act and live according to your beliefs, and you are exercising freedom and liberty.  Where does tradition fit into belief and living according to choice, freedom, and agency?

Bringing the conversation back to principles of freedom, choice and showcasing how decisions determine destiny.  Again, I am not casting aspersions, nor trying to convince anyone to do something they are not comfortable with, nor am I denigrating or deriding anyone’s beliefs, traditions, or methods of worship or celebration.  My intent is not to cause a crisis of faith but to understand for myself.  Please, embrace your freedom to choose to worship, and celebrate, how, where, when, and what you may.  In possessing this freedom, allow others to worship and celebrate how, when, where, and what they may.  Enjoy your holiday traditions and celebrations.  But, please do not judge me as less because I do not understand, believe differently, and live according to my beliefs.

Santa Claus coming to town fills me with dread and despair, not hope, wonder, or joy.  A white Christmas is not a dream for me but a symbol of more snow to shovel, even though I LOVE watching the snow fall and playing in the snow.  Christmas trees do not thrill me but represent a ton of work to put up, more work to maintain, and more work to take down.  Food is not a celebration but represents more work, time, effort, and sacrifice, for momentary pleasure.  While I enjoy food, eat food, and talk about recipes to make food, I do not worship at the altar of food or see any connection between food and traditional celebrations.

I totally get it; the Children of Israel fled Egypt the Passover is a sacred remembrance and should be celebrated; but, Christ showed a better way, and through that better way, the bitterness of fleeing is swallowed up in joy.  Why eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread as part of the tradition and celebration?  Joy is knowledge with aspects of painful experience encapsulated in achievement.  Thus, to me, the flight of Israel shows how faith, painful experience, and achievement are possible, and I want to shout and sing for joy.  I have always thought of Passover as a time for glorious celebration.  Strike up a band, sing, shout, and make merry, for we survived the Passover, escaped Egyptian slavery and harsh bondage, and now are free!  The same goes for Hanukkah, the resurrection of Christ, the birth of Christ, and every other holiday.  The holiday, to my understanding, represents, or signifies, a reason to make merry because those who came before achieved something through enormous difficulty, suffered dreadful pains, and achieved a better place.  They have joy, and we share in that joy.

Bringing up the final aspect of the holidays, sharing joy.  How do we share in the joy those who suffered experienced?  This is the crux of holiday celebrations.  How we answer this question determines the traditions we embrace; the decisions and consequences produce a destiny.  Consequences are neither good nor bad, simply natural actions formed from a choice an agent made.  How we choose to place a value on those consequences immediately determines how often we will make the same choice again, leading to determined destiny over time and repetition.  Using this understanding of choices and consequences, we revisit the question, “How do we choose to share joy?”

I do not know how to answer this question!  Worse, I feel this single question forms the crux of all holiday celebrations, and I am flummoxed!  Some have suggested I perform more service to share joy.  Others suggest giving gifts.  Others have offered well-meaning opinions, ideas, and suggestions that I cannot fathom as connected to a holiday—leading to a need to understand why.  Why act differently leading up to a holiday when you act in an opposing manner the rest of the year?  Why not act the same year-round?

Again, there is no judging, no aspersions cast, no denigration of actions and choices here.  I am not your judge!  But, these questions are the questions I struggle with living, understanding, and connecting to holiday celebrations.  If you have answers, please share them with me, help me understand how you share joy, celebrate, and feel.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.