Joy

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Urocyon recently wrote a really impressive series of posts on the topic of happiness: 

Happiness part 1: What are we talking about anyway?
Happiness part 2:  In which reality is twisted
Happiness part 3:  The personal is indeed political
Happiness part 4:  Seeing beauty

I am not going to go into the amount of detail she went into, but I had a few thoughts. 

I am reminded of two poems I posted on this blog in the past because I have always found the standard metaphor of depression or sadness as “down” to be terribly misleading:

Rising Into Sadness

When the world is a graveyard
Of dusty skeletons falling apart
And the sky cannot be seen
And even the pines are no longer green
I know that there have been
Too many words

Falling into Joy

Tossed for moments into living color sky
Ever falling back to a cushion of drabness
This is the way of the world, we said
Watching our eyes adjust to the dimness
Gravity works funny ways, said the world
For those who trust in words
Laughing to itself
As the ashen floor crumbled
Knocking the wind out of us
Smelling the soil as sky blinded our eyes
We had landed on solid green

I was thinking about this today, because of my current experience of joy. The thing that has really surprised me going from depression and terror to happiness, has been that joy — combined with love, beauty, and other such things — is built into the world on a very fundamental level.

This means that instead of learning to feel an emotion, my journey towards that joy has involved removing both internally and externally imposed obstacles that were pulling me away from the joy that exists everywhere. 

There is nothing easy about it. I’m not telling people with depression to snap out of it. My experience of depression was that it is incredibly effective at finding many ways to sort of infiltrate my mind and make me totally exhaust myself by getting stuck in thought loops that have the effect of making me always run the exact wrong direction.  It’s nasty and totally effective at confusing a person until they have no idea which way to go. 

But as I untangled the knots in my head, I found gravity pulling me downward towards joy. Sometimes it has been terrifying. This kind of joy can be almost unbearably intense, and allowing gravity to work instead of running away from it can require giving up aspects of yourself that are really painful to let go of. (The mind is a very strange thing.) But because of various circumstances in my life the alternative to giving these things up has been deadly. So every now and then I’m dragged (sometimes kicking and screaming) through the process of allowing that joy to dissolve one more problematic part of how I think. 

And I suspect I am no different than other people in this regard. It’s an aspect of the human condition I’m dealing with and we all have to face such things regardless of neurology or any other personal trait. And I’m not sure it’s ever over, because growth is never over until we die. Or should never be over anyway.  So the road to this joy seems mostly to involve removing barriers to it rather than having to generate it like an emotion.  

But it’s very reassuring in a way to realize that gravity doesn’t pull us down into sadness, despair, or depression. Gravity pulls us to a place where we realize that every single part of the world no matter how small is absolutely saturated with an almost intolerably intense level of clarity, joy, love, and beauty that can’t be destroyed, only hidden.

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8 responses »

  1. I really like this! Off to read those posts…

    As someone emerging from what seems to be a seasonal worsening of major depressive disorder with psychotic features, I too am rediscovering that gravity pulls you in (like that book!) to joy. Joy hidden everywhere. Right now I’m on my computer, reading your blog and contemplating the internet and various pieces and comments I need to write. The weather is gorgeous, my window is wide open, and I’m clean and fresh from a relaxing cool shower. My mind is in an untangled place, the various barriers (as you mentioned) and knots hacked back away, at least for now.

    Joy indeed.

  2. “So the road to this joy seems mostly to involve removing barriers to it..”

    This really resonates with my own experience, and not just for joy, although I’d never managed to express it so clearly to myself.

    Thanks for this post

  3. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. I love the metaphor of joy as gravity. It echoes my own experience–as I’ve healed, I have discovered intense connectivity and beauty and love and joy that sometimes seems to shimmer and I have this sense of moving deeper toward some sort of center–being pulled down and rooted, both within myself and within this thing that is life itself…

  4. I was depressed for some 5 years, it took a long, long time to get out of that. When I was on the way out, I was constantly noticing when I was happy, and astonished that I could be happy so often. I kept thinking “Wow, I doubt it can get any better than this. Better savour it while it’s here.” And then with more work and time, it still got better, and I was just totally shocked at that. I still notice all the time that I’m mostly happy now, and when I feel joy.

    Before the depression, I never used to notice it (joy, happiness) at all.

  5. “Gravity pulls us to a place where we realize that every single part of the world no matter how small is absolutely saturated with an almost intolerably intense level of clarity, joy, love, and beauty that can’t be destroyed, only hidden.”

    Beautifully expressed. Out in my garden, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed with just how profoundly beautiful the world can be.

  6. Thanks for the mention. :) This topic has been on my mind lately.

    Great post! You wrapped words around this idea a lot more succinctly than I did. Removing barriers so you can experience the existing joy is a good way of describing it.

    I’ve also had similar experiences with depression, including the nasty thought loops which get between you and the rest of the world.

    This kind of joy can be almost unbearably intense, and allowing gravity to work instead of running away from it can require giving up aspects of yourself that are really painful to let go of.

    Oh my, yes.

  7. Pingback: Just the links: more stuff I’ve been reading 6 « Urocyon's Meanderings

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