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Hubert Pryor

Finding Joy
by Hubert Pryor

Finding joy is like finding that your missing eyeglasses were on your head all the time.

Our human urge is to think we must search for joy or pursue it along some twisting path. But the more effort we put into the task, the more joy eludes us.

Down through the ages, wise and inspired leaders have found joy in just one place--themselves.

And yet joy was not what they were after. What they were after, like the person with missing eyeglasses, was the ability to see.

Which translates into this:

Joy is not a cause. It is a consequence.

You don’t so much find joy. It finds you.

Of course, what is joy?

Is it heaven, is it happiness, is it ecstasy?

Perhaps the simplest way to envision joy is to see it as something that comes with a sense of fulfillment.

I mean the fulfillment—even if it’s imperfect or incomplete—of whatever we’re committed to or have as our purpose or goal. It may be successful parenthood, devotion to another, occupational success, or any other of a myriad reasons why we go from day to day on this earth and make a life.

You do a good thing well, you’re happy.

Joy is the consequence, the result, the reward.

I say this, not because I am so wise. In my life, I’ve gone down all kinds of wrong paths. In time, I found that just about all that happened to me, so far as I could determine, happened because of my mind set.

That led me, as a writer, to start rewriting my purpose in life, starting with my mind. Isn’t that where it all starts?

What I did was to write affirmations (positive, creative meditations, if you will). If I was angry, or jealous, or lonely, or fearful, or compulsive, or bored—whatever the problem, I found there was an antidote, a whole opposite way of looking at the problem. In fact, as wise folks have said through the ages, the solution is always in the problem.

In the end, I wrote what many people call positive mind treatments for dozens of personal problems I confronted over time, plus several more that are common to most people.

Now, this kind of approach is criticized by some as pure and simple "happy talk." They see it as nothing more than Pollyanna stuff. Well, better that than nothing or than constant nay saying. But, "happy talk," I agree, is hardly the answer.

I concluded that no positive mind treatment could be effective just because I wrote that everything was OK. Indeed, I recognized that just about all the words of the wise in human history turned out to have been inspired by a power greater than they were.

They found that the strength and motivation to overcome was the power of life itself, of universal intelligence or mind of which we are the expression.

With that kind of cosmic power plant, one can count on spiritual strength to overcome any concern whatever encountered on the human level. And so my affirmations, I found, had the full backing of a force that, unseen, could be felt convincingly and effectively in helping replace what had concerned me.

Evidently, a publisher felt likewise. The result was the book, SOUL TALK, which appeared a few years ago.

So now, I keep talking to myself, usually in writing, or silently or at least out of others’ earshot, to try to sort out my human frailties and foibles and put them in the perspective of some universal intelligence or power or life force. And in doing so, I find myself asked to write a piece like this one.

All I can say is what I said at the beginning. In other words, joy is no different from the way Thomas Jefferson saw it. In the Declaration of Independence, you remember, he called it happiness. Our right as citizens of our new nation, he wrote, was "the pursuit of happiness"—not joy itself but freedom to think and say and do what leads to it.

And what else could that be but to follow our star?

The Words of the Wise

Philosophers, poets and saints have been writing about joy for centuries.

St. Paul, in a letter to the Galatians, wrote: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace," plus several virtues. What that means, according to a modern translation, is that joy, etcetera come to us when we let Spirit control our lives.

Two millennia later, that plain-speaking playwright, George Bernard Shaw, wrote: "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one."

In between, the image of joy was outlined by observers as many persuasions.

The 18th century poet William Blake pronounced these succinct words of wisdom:

"Love to faults is always blind,

Always is to joy inclined. . . ."

That was followed shortly afterward by the even more succinct statement of the British writer, John Ruskin:

"Joy without labor is base."

Then, of course, his contemporary, John Keats, told the world: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

And his other contemporary, Percy Bysshe Shelley, attributed joy to life itself, with these words:

"To suffer woes…to forgive wrongs…to defy Power, to love, and bear…to hope till Hope creates from its own wreck the thing it contemplates--this alone, Life, Joy."

To top it off, Alfred Lord Tennyson told us in the closing years of the 19th century: "There is no joy but calm."


Copyright© 2000 Hubert Pryor. 

Hubert Pryor is a retired magazine editor and writer. He is the former editor-in-chief of Modern Maturity. He was the editorial director most recently of Arthritis Today. In earlier years, he was editor of Science Digest, and a senior editor of Look magazine. He lives in South Palm Beach, Florida, where he is a free-lance writer and editor.  His book, SOUL TALK is available from DeVorss & Company, P.O. Box 550, Marina del Rey, CA 90294. Phone: (800) 843-5743.



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