Erica Jong

The Miserable vs. The Joy

Friends love misery, in fact.  Sometimes, especially if we are too lucky

or too successful or too pretty, our misery is the only thing that endears us to our friends.

Erica Jong

When we are young Joy seems to float around our days, even in the most horrible of situations.  As children, we have this built in mechanism to see, feel and stay in the state of joy.  We play. We wonder--we feel--alive.  When we grow up, misery sneakily replaces any hope of ever attaining that kind of happiness—again.  Why does it seem that Misery is the gateway to becoming “a mature adult?” The average child is raised to believe that life is hard. Love is work and while it is nice-to-dream, don’t bank on your dreams ever coming true.  Don’t believe in happy endings and when it comes to love? Be prepared to have your heart broken.  With such negative guidance and reinforcement instilled into the young heart, it is no wonder that innocence can turn into violence, rage, repression and oppression becomes—The Adult.

When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter society,

one of the politer names of hell.  That is why we dread children,

even if we love them, they show us the state of our decay.”

Brian W. Aldiss

When we tell this untrue story to children about love and life, what happens?  They usually frown at our sorry state for existence and look up to us not out of respect, more appropriately out of pity:  We are taller than they are, so they act cautious.  After our ranting about the misery that shall encompass their adult world; after we have ripped away their dreams in front of their young, hopeful eyes, eventually they will turn away, try to ignore what we have said and quickly pocket their dreams and hopes for their life as they hang on to the intangible arms of—faith.  Some children will grow-up holding on to the wishes of happily ever after; love being easy and life too shall be an exciting journey filled with adventures that they will embrace without trepidation.  Unfortunately the majority will surrender their dreams of joy and bliss as they will have allowed the Wing Clippers of the world to hock all of their feathers and replace them with:  F e a r.  (Have you ever known anyone who can fly, fearful and featherless?) The repetition from our negative influences and patterns sends us down this treacherous path:

Fear the unknown and Fear being known

Fear being loved and fear loving

Fear happiness

Fear risk

Fear change, which in essence is: fear Life.

When children are raised to embrace life, take risks, love freely and unconditionally they allow themselves to be vulnerable to life and to expect all the wonderful that can happen to them.   Being vulnerable opens us up the all the wonder  (and surprise) of the unknown.  The wonder of being known; of being loved; of taking risks; of happiness; of change and of—life

Fear of anything is paralyzing and prevents one from any form of living. Yet, the feeling and euphoric state of joy that we all secretly wish would whisk us off to some far off land, seems more illusive than a realistic goal for our lives, once we are adults.   Why does joy seem so unattainable for most of us?  Is it only something that we dream about—kind of like love? Or is Joy just a part of who we are but have forgotten exists? We dream about the wonderful and even the colorful in life, yet often these reveries never come to fruition.  We stay stuck in the stagnation of a concrete Black & White world, (an unreal world) never venturing out into the unknown, the colorful, loving world that is there for the taking.  Joy, thus becomes some dormant emotion that never seems to awaken us during our lives.  Sometimes the closest we get to our deepest desires and dreams is only realized through a great novel we immerse ourselves in.  We can almost feel joy as our own when we are sitting in a dark theater gazing freely up at celluloid love and joy, without inhibition.  We imagine ourselves as the very  actors in a movie or on a stage--where our hearts are safe (or are they?).  Still that intangible world of celluloid, no matter how colorful, never quite belongs to us—not really. We voyeuristcally experience it via others, actors, media, etc… we leave the novel or the theater with an emptiness; a void, better known as—misery.

It is a comfort to the Miserable’s to have companions in their sad state.  This may seem to be a kind of malicious satisfaction, that one man derives from the misfortunes of another, but the philosophy of this reflection stands upon another foundation; for our comfort does not arise from others being miserable, but from this inference upon the balance, that we suffer only the lot of human nature, and as we are happy or miserable compared with others, so others are miserable or happy compared with us.

Wellins Calcott,

With the grieved there is an internal missing-of-something; a numbness to one’s life and emotions that one may never fully recognize, the sorry state of their lives.  Why does happiness often seem unachievable—unreachable?   If happiness and joy are our birthright why does it seem that so few possess it?

Our interpretation of Joy in this country and perhaps throughout many countries around the world is that Joy =’s Success and we measure success by the material things we possess and the images we protect and covet.  What is the feeling of Joy anyway? How do we recognize it?   If we are fortunate enough to ever find happiness, it feels as though it is some private secret that we must guard for fear that we will be found out or worse yet—that our joy will be taken away… Did you ever notice?  Whenever you have some small success or happiness that you share with the “wrong too many”, or even the “right few” there is a flatness in the way your joy is received, there is no echo or heartfelt “Yay for You!”.   When we are not happy can we completely be happy for others?

When we can be spontaneously and authentically happy for the joy of others something magical happens to us.   We are not envious or bitter that someone else catches a moment or a lifetime of this bliss for themselves.  Something beautiful comes to us, perhaps in the same way it arrives to them.  When we feel happy for others, genuine, heartfelt happiness, then we become a part of that which is beautiful in life and we do not notice or see what we are lacking, or if we are lacking anything at all.

When we are not filled with joy for others, misery becomes a pattern for our every day survival; an unconscious compromised pattern that is not addressed or perhaps even recognized as, “I am utterly miserable.” How much of our days, conversations or work revolve around some form of misery? If we are not complaining about our misery we are communing with others about theirs.  People seem to unconsciously thrive on complaints and sufferings.   I have overheard conversations that seem eerily easier and more comfortable to complain about misfortunes or lots in life than to embrace and hold on to any amount of happiness or simply a positive perspective on even the grimmest of circumstances.

Throughout our days, conversations will have twinges of woes, sadness with some relationship in our life, some bad news we unconsciously allow into our daily atmosphere with friends, co-workers and passersby’s.  Some part of our day will embody –Misery. We are bombarded with it, whether we want it or not. It is everywhere we turn:  The weather and all the media coverage.  (Why does it seem so important to our lives, to know the details and privacy of the lives of individuals with whom have nothing to do with our world? Why do we care or make time for things and events that do not expand our lives for the betterment of everyone?  Isn’t the reality of our life sufficient? Do we really have to partake in the virtual world of people  who are not a part of our world? Has voyeurism become the norm for this millennium? We have gotten that desperate? Our lives are that vacuous?)

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Technology is so pervasive and abused today that we cannot hide from all the negative bombardment that has become a part of our world, unless we completely and consciously shut it out.   And when we do?  Ahhh, we can let go of our share of Misery and lasso that colorful, fearless and exciting thing, called—J o y.

Thoughts are boomerangs returning with precision to their source.

Choose wisely which ones you throw.

Author unknown

There is a great deal of talk today about changing our thoughts from the negative to the positive and how thought directly affects our physical and mental worlds. “I think therefore I am.” Descartes.  “You are what you think.”  (quote belonging to many...) “Your word is your wand.” Florence Skovel Shinn.   The events and outcomes of our days are a direct result of our thinking, for the most part.  Where we place our attention, whether it is positive or negative is guiding our reactions, our feelings and our ability to be joyful or miserable.  Changing our thoughts is far more challenging than one might think.  They come; they linger; they are colorful and sometimes even scary! Eventually our thoughts go, move on and other thoughts emerge.    Keeping our thoughts focused on the positive is the challenge.

"what you plant and grow in your mind determines your destiny."

proverb 4:23

Eastern thought refers to our mind as a wild river running rampant with our thoughts as the uncontrollable current.   This concept goes as far back as early Buddhism and Hinduism.    Thousands of years ago, it was known that our thoughts and our speech could create our world, fight our wars and—make- our- dreams- come- true too! Heeding the words of the ancient wise will behoove us today in our world of technology, for technology has its place, but it has no place in our hearts when it is abused and filled with negativity.

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"find a place inside where there is joy and the joy will

burn out the pain."

Joseph campbell

If we knew that we were miserable and that there was a way out of our wretchedness—would we take it?  Would we be able to handle the happiness that separates us from the conformers of our world? Surely to be miserable is a form of conformity.  After all, Misery does love company, and if we are honest with ourselves we will see misery all around us.    The Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli  and  rock star, Zucchero Fornaciari sing the song of Misery with a passion to be freed from it—a begging and almost asking for permission to be released from the shackles of despair.  Together they sing and embrace the tragedy of sadness and loss of precious life-time and pray for the joy of living to rescue them from their darkest night—their life…they sing with a longing to be freed from this pervasive darkness so joy may have a space inside of them in which to enter.  Life is so brief, so fleeting; such is the blessing of it and yet so few of us catch it long enough to know not to surrender the love over misery.  If you have not heard the song in Italian, I urge you to:

“if there is a night dark enough to hide me, to hide me, if there is a light, a hope, a magnificent sun that shines inside of me, give me the Joy to live that is not yet there.” (give- me- the –joy- to –live- that –is- not- yet- there.) How many of us can feel and know those words? In the secret confines of our darkest hours, our loneliest evenings, can we know, can we feel the joy that is not yet there?  For many of us, we do not even know what that feeling is—that- it-is-even missing!  We are so numb to our sadness that however can we recognize the presence of joy—of happiness—of love?

Perhaps we can look at misery with empathy and compassion, if not within ourselves, but in another. If we can help someone else feel the joy that is not yet there for themselves—we will indirectly discover the joy we need to find within ourselves.  This state of joy is our heart and soul’s birthright, and misery is the right betrothed to us from Society and our famiglia heritage.   With compassion and empathy for others,  we would be able to let the non-living-part of life go--so we can live fully.

Nobody likes a happy person, because the happy person hurts the egos of the others.  The others start thinking, “So you have become happy and we are still crawling in darkness, misery, and hell. How dare you be happy when we are all in such misery!”

Osho

I am convinced that when we are born we enter the world ready to embrace all the Horror and Wonder that life has to offer—fearlessly. We are born—valiant and chivalrous little warriors, yet over time we see the world as not always so welcoming.  When we enter the world with open arms we also open our eyes to this flawless Golden Door, filled with Invitation; filled with Dreams, just waiting for us to take part this great big game called, Life.   As we grow, that Golden Door becomes more distant and we may even question whether or not we can even see it anymore.  For some of us, we return to the Strength we were born with and we lasso the Courage to hold steadfastly to the Kaleidoscope of Life and that Golden Door is not only visible, but  stays opened.  We enter and we stay.  When we can live with this kind of colorful vision, the Miserable’s of the world can never touch us…

“there is a light, a hope, a magnificent sun

that shines inside of me, give me the Joy to live….”

(a life of Happily Ever After.)

So, when that Clock is about to strike 12 and that noon train is approaching around the bend; the tracks are laden with golden bricks pointing in a Direction and your life is asking you:  Decide, Decide, Decide...who are you going to listen to, your heart or your mind?  What will you (!) choose? Misery or Joy?

(only time will tell...)