Is Your Soul a Garden..Or a Wasteland?
By Stephen Doherty
With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony,
and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things. –William Wordsworth
My mother once said to me, “If you don’t have something in your life that gives you pure, unadulterated joy-you are committing spiritual suicide.” Truer words were never spoken. The world is a magical place, but life can be harsh and unrelenting. Without the means of rejuvenation, we risk withering and dying on the vine. Each one of us needs that special well to drink from that quenches our spiritual thirst and gives our life true joy and lasting happiness.
A difficult lesson for many of us is learning the difference between joy and pleasure. It’s an important distinction that too few people grasp—especially the young. Too many people spend too much of their lives under the illusion that accumulating pleasure equates to eventual happiness. It doesn’t. It does help explain the allure of alcohol and drugs, reckless behavior, expensive possessions, and meaningless relationships. They all define the very essence of pleasure–temporary “feel good” moments, often followed by unhappiness and frustration when that pleasure wears off and leaves us empty inside and yearning for more. Pleasures can make you happy, but joy will bring you happiness.
Joy is much harder to attain but lingers indefinitely in our heart and enriches our spirit beyond the moment. It gives us great happiness and taps into the same part of our spirit as love. If we exclude our families for the moment-assuming we can all agree that our greatest source of joy is woven into times together with those we love-then the possibilities run the gamut. The only meaningful gauge of whether an activity gives us joy or pleasure lies within ourselves to judge. No easy task.
Madison Avenue pays billions annually trying to convince us that their products and services will give us “joy and happiness.” Some things may…most will fade away by the airing of the next commercial. There are also things that will give some of us incredible joy that will only provide temporary pleasure to others—if not outright absence of either joy or pleasure. The challenge isn’t our selection but rather our honesty in gauging its value.
I enjoy golf and skiing…very much, although I’m of average skill at either. They provide temporary escape from the grind of life and produce smiles, exhilaration, and great memories! Nothing wrong with that at all and I don’t mean to suggest that the pleasures of life should be avoided or impugned-merely understood and qualified. True joy does more and requires more. True joy stays with us for months and rejuvenates our batteries and increases dramatically the wattage of our respective lights.
For me? Three things (besides time with family) that bring me to the brink of ecstasy and joy. One, cruising the Rocky Mountains on my motorcycle. I feel like I’m navigating the roads of Heaven and every nerve in my body is alive! Two, writing. ANY and all writing. For me, a keyboard is like a musical instrument and the tune is trumped by the joy of playing. Finally, physical exercise of virtually any kind vividly reminds me that I’m alive and that life is precious and worthwhile.
Joy is the rocket fuel of life. Unlike pleasure, the embers of joy remain warm and enjoyable long after the event has passed. My purpose was not to question or diminish anyone’s pursuit of either-but merely to remind you of the difference and the paramount importance of one versus the passing fancy of the other. Spiritual dehydration dulls the blade of life which is as regrettable as it is preventable. Choose wisely the source of your spiritual beverage and life becomes extra-ordinary. As John Wooden once told me, “The Journey IS the Inn!”
“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.”—Helen Keller