When it’s harder than ever to choose joy, we risk accepting its absence. That can become a self-fulfilling prophecy of joyless days. We may fuel a vicious cycle dragging us further and further away from joy.
But, when we make the effort to look for joy, we increase our chances of breaking our self-inflicted prisons and creating a virtuous cycle that builds off of positive reinforcement.
Sure, there’s no guarantee it’ll be successful. But when choosing joy is harder? Not looking for joy at all guarantees failure.
My previous post (“How are we to live?“) was at the start of the pandemic, when the world was just entering a lockdown period for what was hoped to be no more than a month or two of measures to disrupt the pandemic’s spread. Some five months later, the list of macro-level and personal problems has grown to unimagined levels. Those problems have propagated anxiety, depression, health issues and complications, concern for the country’s future, uncomfortable conversations, no-right-answer choices, and a general malaise. In the U.S. and other countries, the confluence of civil unrest, a pandemic, economic woes, and existential threats to safety and security have made choosing joy harder than it’s been for a generation.
The result is like a scene out of a fantasy novel, where the hero with the cursed helm/ring/necklace struggles against overwhelming fear and dread to fight for what’s right. It’s so easy to meekly accept the darkness and idly pin our hopes on being saved. Someone will fix our problems for us, right? The world will get better… we just have to wait. And so we wait. And wait. And the darkness consumes us, bit by bit.
To wait for joy is to play the victim. It’s to passively give up agency and bet that an uncaring world will care, or that others will rescue you. It’s to pass up the opportunity to take more control of your reality — a real shame, because even trying to take control makes you feel better, and abdicating it just brings more tears.
Paradoxically, there’s joy in looking for joy. So even if you don’t find it… you do. At least a little.