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.

Why it matters – The Answer

Andragogy - LEARNTelomeres are strings on the end of a DNA chain.  The longer the telomere string, the healthier and longer the cell lives.  The reverse is also true, shorten the telomere string, and death and sickness occur.  There are a ton of peer-reviewed resources that can explain, detail, and expound about telomeres; feel free to look them up; please accept for the moment the statement is true.  While I am not going much further into telomeres and DNA science, the fact that long telomere strings and living healthier and happier are important correlational pieces of data essential to the rest of this article.

Learning and having a purpose are two separate but conjoined variables essential to keep the telomere string long and the DNA healthy.  However, both purpose and learning are individual choices with physical health consequences.  Please note, these two choices are not a magic bullet to the fountain of youth, nor are they going to change a person’s health overnight.  Both take long hours of investment and require a lifestyle change.

Non Sequitur - Carpe DiemWe begin with some important history.  John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He was one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.  In the 1900s, Dewey established how free people and free societies are built; they are built upon education and literacy.  Dewey then changed education to halt literacy and started a ball of ignorance and government theft of freedoms to begin.  Your reading habits were carefully taught to you during your trip through K-12 government schools.  Unless you purposefully chose to read, you will generally possess a dislike for reading that was taught to you to keep you functionally illiterate, thus programmable to government propaganda.  Dewey’s plan succeeded far and above his wildest dreams.

With this understanding, when the topic of lifelong learning is discussed, the central point becomes formal education failed purposefully to teach; thus, one’s desire for learning must be an internal commitment — a personal appetite for books, knowledge, and a thirst for learning.  When discussing the life and health-changing aspects of learning, this is the point, what are you doing to learn something new every day?  What was the last book you read?  Did you enjoy it?  Would you recommend it?Calvin & Hobbes - Irony Hurts

K-12 education taught you that learning something new was somebody else’s responsibility; whereas, the truth is precisely the opposite.  What you choose to learn will have direct consequences upon your health, mental and physical.  Hence the need for purpose.  Many people can study aimlessly and never fully obtain the full mental and physical health promises because they lack a purpose, a reason, and a motivating reason to direct efforts.  For example, I met a retired Major of the US Air Force; he pursued his MBA because he needed it for promotion.  No other purpose, no reason other than his career, and no genuine interest.  That he topped out at Major and Retired less than his desired rank goal ruined him from learning anything else.  He sits at home, lacking a purpose and reason, miserable.  He has not touched a book to read in years, his TV is his link to the world, and he feels like a failure.  In remembering my friend, I often think to weep at what could have been.

Jack Sparrow's compass - Pirates of the Caribbean Wiki - The Unofficial Pirates of the Caribbean ...A purpose is all about intention, a goal for which one intends, cognitively, to achieve.  A burning passion, a deep hunger, a longing, purpose, as a word, has many synonyms, but the end goal is the same, “What is it you want most?”  One of the reasons I am such a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean is the compass held by Captain Jack Sparrow.  The compass works when the captain knows what he wants, sailing is easier, and progress is made.  Failure to understand what he wants, to know absolutely his purpose, and the journey fails, chaos abounds, and trouble ensues.

Because purpose inspires learning, and both purpose and learning are fundamental to your good mental and physical health, the following suggestions are here for your consideration.  However, they also come with a warning, genuine interest.  I have an interest in a lot of different topics.  Sometimes, I have so many books I am in the middle of my desk looks like a public library threw up!  However, I also have topics that I have less than zero interest in ever pursuing.  I have had to learn where my genuine interests lie, primarily through exploring.  No one can give you wisdom or tell you what your interests are.Bait & Switch 2

Funny story, I discovered I had no interest in art.  None!  Paintings, sculpture, drawing, nothing.  No comprehension, no interest, no desire, nothing!  I discovered this during my associate’s degree, where I was forced to take an art class.  Now, I come from a long line of painters, sculptors, artists in different mediums.  My wife draws, paints, and makes music as an outlet for her artistic abilities.  I can barely doodle and generally do not care to try.  I know what I like but cannot describe the why when it comes to art because I have no interest in the how.  Hence the warning, discover where your genuine interests lay and pursue them relentlessly!

      1. Explore to discover your interests. Public libraries are my best friend!  I have been in some public libraries to borrow baking pans and molds to create different stuff for cooking.  Get to know your public library as the launch point for discovering interests.
      2. Ever think you might like to pursue a degree in something. Why not contact your local community colleges and universities.  Auditing a class is a great way to check your interest levels without investing money.
      3. How do you know when you have found a hidden interest; the secret is in your enthusiasm! Do you cheer to be able to study that topic?  Guess what, you found an interest!  Explore that interest to the Nth degree.  I discovered an interest in anthropology, economics, sociology, and psychology through studying history.  I have always been enthused to learn history.  However, the extra information gleaned from economics, anthropology, sociology, and psychology has made my enthusiasm for history deeper, more enjoyable, and more meaningful.  Measure your enthusiasm, you can become enthused easily and quickly, or slowly and with difficulty, but your enthusiasm is the compass for your interest and purpose.
      4. Volunteer to work with kids! I do not care about the age of the children.  It doesn’t matter if that volunteering occurs through a religious or non-profit organization, kids ask questions, and in asking questions, you learn.  Create time to volunteer.
      5. On the topic of volunteering, spend time in a long-term care facility as a professional listener. I have spent some great days listening to people, I have learned a lot, and let me tell you, I always leave the experience grateful and enthused.  Memorize a joke as a conversation starter, and listen.
      6. Don’t stop! I cannot emphasize this principle enough.  Failure is part of discovery; not stopping is part of discovery.  Hence, do not stop trying, and in not stopping, you will discover… you!

Knowledge Check!My wife is a journal writer.  I blog — others in my family webcast.  The final suggestion in discovering purpose and learning, write down the experiences.  The good, the bad, the failures, the successes, and in writing or recording your thoughts, you will discover new talents and inspire someone else when you share your thoughts.  I learned this lesson from Robert Fulghum, the author, artist, preacher, and storyteller, who happened to write the book “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.”  Want a guide on this voyage of discovery; pick up some of his books, “Uh-Oh,” “It was on fire when I laid down on it,” “Maybe, Maybe Not,” and so many others to choose from.  Mr. Fulghum makes an excellent guide on a voyage of discovery; take along an expert!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.