Stories from a life in progress.


One of my recent Saturday errands was visiting the post office for stamps, and I was delighted to find they currently have Pixar-themed ones.  I bought my Pixar stamps and left the post office, grinning foolishly, happy with the world.  It struck me how ephemeral happiness is, because just the evening before I had not been at all happy, and earlier that morning I was not really happy and not really anything else, and I realized the happiness I felt over Pixar stamps was good and enjoyable, but it would fade away into other feelings, like feelings always do.

So happiness is an ephemeral thing -- a good ephemeral thing, like butterflies, and rainbows, and sunsets, and snuggles with kids, yours or others that are dear to you.  They are beautiful and good, but not enduring.  They must be experienced while they last, and then they pass away, and other things take their place (hopefully other good things).

I once heard emotions described as gauges, like the ones in a vehicle or other piece of machinery that give some insight as to how the machine is running.  Gauges aren't meant to be static -- some will show more stable settings and some less stable, but if the gauge can't move, it can't do its job.  If it doesn't fluctuate with the condition it is intended to measure, it isn't useful.  It can't fulfill its function.  So if emotions are like gauges, part of our built-in monitoring system, it makes sense to me that they are all ephemeral.  They have to ebb and flow, in order to keep us in touch with reality.

Which brings me to a comparison I'm still trying to untangle.  What's the difference between happiness and joy?  What's the real difference between them?  Sometimes they seem to be used interchangeably, but I don't think they are the same thing.  Because when I step into the spiritual arena, I can't think of much the Bible says about happiness, but it says a whole lot about joy -- up to and including the command to always be joyful.  Not an option.

True, a lot of God's commands are very difficult to keep, if not impossible outside of his active help.  But if something isn't possible at all, he doesn't command it.  God isn't unfair in that way.  If it's possible to always be joyful, then joy is not an ephemeral thing ... so joy and happiness are not the same thing.  In which case, what is joy?

I don't really have a good definition of it yet; these are ideas in progress.  Important ones, because I think they have a lot to do with the quality of life we achieve.  Plus, if "be joyful" is a command from God, then I want to and am obliged to pursue it.  So what's joy?  I'm not sure yet.  Except that it's something worth chasing.