Monday, August 21, 2006

No flipside to joy

I just finished the book Exuberance, which I wrote about several months ago. Clearly, it's not that easy of a read! And I'm not sure I agree with the author's conclusions, even though she has widely studied exuberance and what she considers to be its flipside, depression.

The author, Dr. Jamison, is herself a manic-depressive sufferer. So her work follows the familiar path—that excessive joy is the opposite of deep depression, and if you have one, you'll most likely suffer with the other.

And perhaps this is true if the exuberance is physical in nature, a simple influx of adrenaline. When it's like a drug making you high, being without it would predictably make you low.

But the reason I was so drawn to the title and I read the book is my conviction that joy can be permanent. It's more than a wild peak followed by a dark valley. Non-physical joy, i.e., spiritual joy, is sourced in Spirit, so need have no end at all.

I think Jamison comes closest to this in her chapter "Forces of Nature," where she explores the exuberance felt by scientists on the path of discovery. I'd never linked joy with scientific discovery before, yet that's what these highly dedicated men and women feel when they unravel a mystery for the first time. It's a childlike delight in being the first to see or understand something—that ooo-aah of revelation. Many of these scientists are described as then bounding around a room or quick calling everyone they know to share what they've found. These folks, once on that path, stay on it, making their life work to continue to discover and rejoice.

Much of the rest of the book explains, however, that many people characterized as exuberant were also frequently depressed and suicidal. "Mania," which to me had always been highly negative, apparently is the irrationally positive flipside of depression. This then slides into mental illness.

So what's the dividing line between being mentally ill and genuinely joyous? It seems to me the discussion is void if you stay in the realm of human emotions. One looks much like the other. What's needed in this as in many human dilemmas is the injection of the Divine. For without the Divine, we can make no sense of the puzzle.

Genuine joy is not sourced in material sense. It doesn't require physical sensation or circumstances to burst forth. The euphoria associated with things physical devolves to its opposite state; spiritual joy has nothing opposite to devolve to. It is self-existent and permanent.

Mary Baker Eddy writes about this transition from the impermanent to the permanent several places in Science and Health. Note how she's revealing that it's as we drop our faith in matter that our joy becomes more real.

Sorrow is turned into joy when the body is controlled by spiritual Life, Truth, and Love.

Job said: "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee." Mortals will echo Job's thought, when the supposed pain and pleasure of matter cease to predominate. They will then drop the false estimate of life and happiness, of joy and sorrow, and attain the bliss of loving unselfishly, working patiently, and conquering all that is unlike God. Starting from a higher standpoint, one rises spontaneously, even as light emits light without effort; for "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man — governed by God, his perfect Principle — is sinless and eternal.

Harmony is produced by its Principle, is controlled by it and abides with it. Divine Principle is the Life of man. Man's happiness is not, therefore, at the disposal of physical sense.

Joy, and its outward expression Exuberance, doesn't ever need to be limited by sense. "Mind, joyous in strength, dwells in the realm of Mind. Mind's infinite ideas run and disport themselves" (p. 514:6-8). "Disport" means to play. We can expect infinite play as we drop the limited view. There is no flipside.

Why not do a little running and disporting today?

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 8/22/2006 12:27:00 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Hi friend!

Joy is one of my favorite topics.

There is a definition of joy I keep close:

joy is the understanding of the ultimate triumph of life.


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