Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,
Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: ‘Thou single wilt prove none.’
-Sonnet VIII William Shakespeare
There is required reading( Or listening) for this post. David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water”. Read and then come back for a bit as I will never be able to introduce the subject as well as David Foster Wallace. Not preachy, not arrogant, not on a high horse talking down to all of us minions and very realistic as to the long day to day struggles of just plainly living life. However, after talking about the commencement speech with a friend of mine who is a fantastic teacher of music as well as Meditation, Tai Chi, and a myriad of other arts used to cultivate the human experience he made the suggestion that something was missing. That something was Joy.
Based solely upon our neurology we are at best a collection of self-centric experiences. I hear I taste I touch I see I smell I think I view the world by my nature or nurture, I view the world by my genes, I view the world by my past experiences, I view the world by my shape walking out into the world. I view the world of my culture, and it’s expectations. I view the world through my health, I view the world through my appearance. My thinking is affected by my health, My thoughts are influenced by my education. There are lots of self-centered experiences that largely affect how we interact with the world. What comes along with these self-centric experiences is our judging mind. It is the quality of this judging mind where we will put now put our attention.
What determines how we judge the world? Are we aware of the choices that we make? Where do those choices come from? What are the guiding principals of these choices? We cannot escape making choices of how to interact with what we see. So it is important to look at the guiding forces we have formed over the years to see if there is anything amiss. If you have decided to treat all of the input from your senses and neurology as dull and flat, then the world will become dry and flat and devoid of wonder. If you have made the choice that everyone else is in your way then the world will become crowded with people in your way, and you will always feel as if you are stuck in a traffic jam. If you have made the choice of being kind to yourself and others above all else, the world will become kinder. Were you aware of the power in your own decisions?
There are always voices saying that this is pragmatically wrong. The world is the world. It is beautiful it is shitty, it is kind, and it is violent. This is also true. I am not speaking of the reality of the world.
Imagine yourself as being made up of different people in a small town. In this town the people (the various aspects of yourself) have many jobs, we have the city manager that oversees all of the tasks that need to be done, there are teachers informing us of how we can learn to interact with our environment, we have the city accountant, we have the nurse looking at our health, We have the athletic trainer, we have the psychologist looking at the mental health of the town, we have the priest, we have a bunch of children playing games, We have the wise old man and the wise old women, the hero, the lovers, the chef, the nutritionist, the plumber. In other words, contained within us is a town full of people each doing their own jobs to keep us alive and functioning within acceptable parameters. Each of us values the voices of these different people differently. But there are many aspects of us that help to keep us alive.
Each of the people (aspects of ourselves) have their own gifts and deficits as well, the nutritionist is good but doesn’t really know how to speak to the kid that really wants a bag of cookies every day, so the town is getting fat, the accountant is being overruled by the city manager and there is too little money. The city manager is overworking everyone, so everyone is tired and stressed out. The kids are not being allowed to play, so everyone is way too serious. Within most of us, there is a lack of harmony. We come by it naturally look at the culture we come from. It is also human nature. It is also in many other cultures. That fact is many of us are at constant war with ourselves and we become a town of angry and Isolated parts is one of the ways to look at Shakespear’s poem we are alone and isolated, we remain unmarried even in ourselves. The Line above Thou single wilt prove none.’ Can speak to the discord within us as well as why we choose to treat people we come in contact with poorly as well.
So we have established we are a town full of people doing jobs to keep us alive. We have determined that we can make choices that inform how we interact with the world. That given our self-centric neurology it might be helpful to remember that the rude person behind us may be fighting battles that we know nothing about and we should still be kind even though our self-centered voice wants to yell at them. Not only that but I should understand that every other person on earth feels as if (because their own neurological data tells them) they are the center of the universe too so I should do my best to remember that: what I see, I hear, I taste, I touch and I smell are all being filtered through my own flawed neurology just like everyone else. These are all great starts and described by David Foster Wallace much better than I. However he is missing something. Joy. A choice of Joy in the crazy varied, incomprehensible ever-changing, maddening wonder and disaster that is life.
The next step is that Joy Delights in Joy. This step requires nothing.It doesn’t require that we are living harmoniously, It does not require riches, it does not require good health, it does not require that we are not feeling pain, It does not require that we get what we want, It does not require that we are better than others, it does not require that we are smart, it does not require that we are entertained It doesn’t matter if we are happy or sad. As a matter of engagement it expects that everything is changing, nothing remains the same that it is all joyful because it “Is” life. If you can bring everything that David Foster Wallace mentions and as well choose to look for and bring a sense of joy to the experience of it all. Then your life changes.
It is the town (your) proclamation that wonder can be found in whichever direction you are looking, no matter what else is happening. Does this mean you are never sad? Nope, but that you can find wonder in the fact you can be sad. Wow, this is me being sad. This is me with anger passing through me, This is me in pain, this is me being filled with happiness. This is me eating, this is me hungry. This is me being broke. This is me with money. It requires nothing but paying attention. And much like remembering that the person next to you is fighting a battle that you know nothing and you should be kind regardless of how they are treating you, you remember to bring a habit of Joy to every moment, with all of its varied qualities and your judgments of them.
Something happens when the town of you decides the only thing needed for joy is to be joyful. When all of the different parts of you slowly begin behaving as if what they are really doing while they are doing something or anything is Delighting in the Joy of Being Alive. I am not saying it is anything but what it is an unmistakable joy.
This is the water? Yes, look! This is the Water!!!