What are the beginnings of joy? Joy emanates from the center of you. That being said, how do you achieve joy on a daily basis in a chaotic world? You are forced to alter the way that you perceive reality. Joy itself is elusive and not easily acquired. The very beginning of this concept must be predicated on want: I truly want to be happy, contented, etc. Most of us, however, have grown up in a capitalistic system that is based on consumption. We are virtually pre-programmed to join the ranks of economic slaves and spend our lives in mostly useless tasks that make the owners of capital richer and richer and the working minions forced into a minor economic role, continuously trying to save money.
The documentary film Wage Crisis discusses the fear that half the American working-class lives in, “Close to half of the working Americans can’t save for an emergency or their own retirement. Fifty percent of the people in the U.S. live in financial uncertainty. It might be unbelievable, but New Jersey is the third richest state in the richest country on this planet, yet one in which it’s likely to work full time and at the same time live in financial difficulty. The prevailing story has been Obamacare and the debt ceiling, but the more permanent story is the struggle to make ends meet. The middle class in the US is disappearing as wages go in reverse and secure jobs with good pay and benefits vanish.”(1)
Excessive desire, as the Buddha (The Enlightened One) notes, is the root of all suffering: “With so much suffering in the world today — on an individual level as well as nationally and globally — it is wonderful that someone discovered and pointed out the actual cause of all suffering so that we could eliminate the cause and thus perhaps eliminate suffering itself, making the world a much happier and more peaceful place in the process.” (2) It would seem that the only way we can come to a state of joy is to reduce our consumerism.
We must learn to live in a smaller house, we must learn to drive a smaller car and we must focus our life on spiritual and intellectual growth and shelve (stop) The American Dream, The Chinese Dream, etc. This is far “easier said than done.” From the moment we awaken, a wave of consumerism is foisted upon us: beautiful bodies, elegant cars and a wealth of gadgets and phones are thrust on billboards everywhere. The only way we can possibly thwart this tide is to just say no: I do not want to own the latest communications device. Then as a family, we must reduce and begin to remove ourselves from the economic grid: watch less television and reduce our attraction to Facebook and other social media applications that only continually tempt us. (3)
Don’t despair, the world is waking up. The piece U.N. Climate Talks in Turmoil as Hundreds Walk Out (4) discusses a mass walkout by hundreds of environmental activists in Warsaw. “Movements representing people from every corner of the Earth have decided that the best use of our time is to voluntarily withdraw from the Warsaw climate talks. … Warsaw, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver nothing. … It has become quite flagrantly obvious that progress to reach any legally binding climate change treaty is being obstructed by the lobbying forces of the fossil fuel industry.”
This is greatly encouraging news; once millions of people are mobilized, our society will change: remember the 1848 revolution. (5) The great Chinese sage Lao Tzu (According to Chinese traditions, Lao Tzu lived in the 6th century BC) leaves us with a thoughtful quote: Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.(Parts of this essay were first published on December 14th, 2013.)
A closing thought: All joy lies within, is a popular refrain. There is some truth to this. The way you see the world is the way “you” see it. If this is even remotely true, then each of us owes it to the self to live a positive and dynamic life, and why not? The alternative choice that so many seem to opt for is inconceivably unpleasant, however. Why would I make misery my bedfellow in life? Most, I am sure, would claim that they choose joy over pain – then people had better cleanse their reality to truly get to that state of joy, hadn’t they?
To sum up: This week we spoke about joy and how to achieve its promises.
To be noted: Just as I suspected, someone has been adding soil to my garden. The plot thickens.
Just for fun: Walk Like an Egyptian
This week as you walk along in weekly reflection, please think of your own state of joy.
Every day look for something magical and beautiful
Quote: When you own fewer possessions, you have access to more time and liberty.
1) Wage Crisis
a. Suffering is the unavoidable accompaniment of physical existence.
b. All suffering is caused by desire.
c. All personal desire and ambition must be extinguished by the person who wishes freedom from suffering and it can be extinguished by walking the Path.
d. The Path which leads to freedom from suffering is a narrow path.
5) The European Revolutions of 1848 were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It remains the most widespread revolutionary wave in European history.