Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Joy. Or not. 

Significant thoughts come at the oddest moments. Like when walking across Tesco’s car park about to embark on the weekly trolley-warfare of Saturday morning grocery shopping. Out of an empty sky this thought flew down, perched on my shoulder and whispered in my ear:

There’s really only one reason why my life is not overflowing, this moment and all moments, with joy: I don’t allow it.

Even though I know it’s there for the asking; know that all I have to do is allow joy to flow through me as it wants so much to do. Joy is not something out there, in hiding, waiting to be discovered; it doesn’t have to be earned as a reward; it isn’t achieved by enlightened understanding. Joy is not conditional on the results of anything I do, except one: it simply waits for the door to be unlocked and a channel opened for it to flow.

Joy’s source is within, pouring out to embrace whatever it is that turns the key to unlock the door behind which it waits. Sunlight shining through a leaf, a smile on a stranger’s face, the touch of the wind; even the seemingly mundane – like the warmth of a railway carriage on a cold, wet evening. Everything to which senses are open has the capability to unlock that door, if only we let it.

Joy cannot be contained, cannot be shut in a box and still be joy; joy lives only in flow, and only in flow can we experience and know it.

Joy is conceived within, at the coming together of the inner source and the outer stimulus, but the moment of its birth is critical to its life. If it doesn’t reach expression in the world but stays hidden, with little outward evidence - beyond perhaps a smile - a disconnect is created: two selves, one external, one internal, pulling in different directions. But the outer self has behind it the weight of the whole world, driving to maintain the status quo.

I make joy wear a straightjacket; at the first sign of its stirring I bind and hold it. Or like a frightened animal, I turn tail and run with it for the familiar dark security of my burrow, holding it tight to prevent it escaping, rather than face the awesome brightness that awaits on the burrow’s threshold.

Why would anyone refuse such a gift?

I thought at first it was self-punishment. Not for any specific crime; just an irrational, masochistic desire to seek justification through self-denial.

Then I wondered if it was unworthiness; I simply don’t deserve it.

The true answer though is simpler, more elemental. It’s fear, plain and simple. Fear which lies at the root of so much pain. It’s fear that paralyses - just as fear in the face of danger holds a body physically paralysed, so too fear can hold heart and mind rigid, incapable of expression, constricting the flow of joy until it is strangled to no more than a few sorry drips, soon dispersed.

But fear of what?

Fear of being noticed, of being different, of standing out? Fear of rejection for daring to believe that attitude changes everything? Fear of being mistaken for a happy-clappy, tree-hugging, do-gooding, flower-bearing hippy? (Peace, man...) Fear of being thought a little strange, a little eccentric; even slightly mad? After all, to be mad is only to choose a reality which is different to that chosen by the majority.

Fear of stepping over a boundary, of breaking the unwritten rules that define normal behaviour? Fear of disturbing the ordered scheme of things, of upsetting the applecart? Fear of taking a step that can’t be reversed without looking foolish?

Fear of losing control? Fear that, having been dammed up for so long, unfettered joy will gush and bubble and behave in a generally childish fashion unbefitting one of my apparent solemnity?

Or is it the ultimate get-out: avoidance of being responsible?

Do I dare disturb the universe?

It’s such a fragile feeling; I stand balanced on a knife-edge, knowing that I can tip either way at any moment. If I chose to deny it, the feeling will wither and die; if I choose to allow it – but I haven’t yet. I daren’t.

As a kid, did you ever make a diver in a bottle? His buoyancy set at a critical point – a gentle squeeze on the bottle and the diver plummets to the bottom; release the pressure and he bobs to the surface. I feel like that diver. The bizarre thing is that it’s easier to keep up the pressure – both from outside and from within – to send me down, but so much harder simply to release the grip of those pressures and come bobbing to the surface.

Four days at home over Easter released the pressure on the bottle just a fraction. Back at work again, the grip tightens. But I can begin to see it for what it is, and recognise the choices.

I should probably have worked on this a bit more, but too many posts never see the light of day because I send them down that path, never to return. So let it stand here, raw and unfinished.

Well, if I’m going to leave it unfinished, I might as well add the latest thought that materialised from nowhere: perhaps what is needed is simply channels for the flow to run along.

Oh yeah; one more thing. Substitute love for joy. Or inner peace. The meaning is much the same.

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