According to a Jewish myth, Genesis didn’t tell us the whole story about how God made the universe. When the world was created, something went horribly wrong.
The story goes that when God decided to bring this world into being, He made room for it by withdrawing Himself a little. The result was darkness. When He said, “Let there be light”, His light filled the darkness like little beakers of sunshine.
Unfortunately, the beakers, being created out of darkness, were flawed. They shattered, scattering the light everywhere. The myth says, whenever you find a spark of that light that had been lost from that primordial accident, you feel joy. In fact, that’s why God created humans, to help Him find the missing sparks amidst everything that’s broken in the world. Joy guides you towards your life’s purpose.
Joy is closely related to and often synonymous with happiness, bliss, charm, exhilaration, gladness, delight, glee, elation, satisfaction, pleasure, and wonder; but it’s different. Many have thought it might be useful to reserve one of those positive feelings for when we find something good in a bad place, the silver lining of a cloud. Joy is the word they use for that. You can be happy in Disneyland, but when you’re feeling positive in Peoria, that’s joy.
Happiness is found where you expect to find it, so you book that trip to Disneyland, strive to earn that million dollars, date that supermodel, acquire that yacht, or plan that perfect wedding and try to be happy. But those things are so much work and so uncertain that happiness still eludes you. Shysters and sharpies dangle happiness like bait, only to get you hooked on things that make you miserable. You’re so often disappointed with the pursuit of happiness that you may conclude it’s impossible to be happy.
Joy, in our sense of the word, is not found in those places or by doing those things. You don’t need a million dollars to purchase it, it’s free for the taking. The supermodel is less likely to give it to you than her homely sister. It’s not aboard the yacht. You don’t go anywhere to find it, it finds you. You can’t plan it like you plan a wedding; you come upon it when you least expect it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for joy. Know what you are looking for as you comb through the wreckage of the primordial accident. Where I am now, hiding out from the COVID-19 pandemic, I see plenty of wreckage. It’s impossible to pursue happiness the usual ways. I’m going to look for joy. I think I can recognize it. You look, too. And when you find a spark of joy, please ignite a blaze that’ll illuminate the darkness for all of us.