The sinking into the depths of the element, into its incomparable freshness, a plenitude and a fulfilment…of life loving life even in (the face of death). It is by the other and for the other, for another…to be torn from oneself despite oneself…and in its vulnerability as an exposure to the other. But it is not a gift of the heart but of the bread from one’s mouth…it is the openness…of the doors of one’s home. (Emmanuel Levinas, my words in the brackets)
Joy, the pure love of life, may be relatively fleeting but it is constantly renewed and always returns. We may not be able to live on joy alone but it can go a long way to making life more fulfilling. Why then, do a lot of us, or maybe all of us at times, seem to reduce or suppress our sense of joy with the world? Is it because we know it is fleeting and ‘ordinary’ life seems dull in comparison? Is it because joy and grief are so closely linked that it is better to forgo joy in a futile attempt to keep grief at bay? Is it because the world is in such a mess that it feels inappropriate to express joy when surrounded by such suffering? Is it because the expression of joy can can create envy in other people who must then mock and destroy it?
Perhaps all of the above are true, and of course, our life circumstances, our economic situation, the political climate we live in and any trauma we have suffered can limit our ability to express joy. Yet it survives all this. Perhaps to be truly joyous increases our awareness of the absence, the end of joy, perhaps to fully embrace the joy within us means we also have to fully accept the despair and grief embedded within our existence, perhaps to unreservedly celebrate the joy of life whilst knowing grief and loss will soon return is one of the most courageous things we can do. It seems to me that to express joy is to make ourselves extremely vulnerable, it is to offer ourselves to the universe, it may be the purest form of altruism, is the opposite of narcissism and is a kind of vulnerable glory.
My 11-year-old son was standing nearby when I was writing the above and I asked him what he thought about it? It is ok dad but it is not epic enough…then on the spur of the moment he sat down next to me and wrote the following which I have not edited except for adding a couple of commas, reading it filled me with joy!:
It may be that joy is the key of life, it may be that we are only just learning what joy truly is, so let us start an epidemic kingdom of joy, because whoever you are, every single one of us is unique and brilliant. For example, some of us like football, some of us like drawing, some of us like dancing, some of us not so much, so whoever you are, be joyful and live the perfect life you want to live, and always remember joy is the thing that keeps us happy and that keeps us living the life that we want to have, so don’t forget you are brilliant in every way, and never forget joy, joy is life…joy is you (I added the bit about dancing!).