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Joy Is A Choice

March 8, 2010

You are going to die.

How’s that for a joyful thought?

Look: Suppose you were told you were going to go blind. That would certainly be a devastating prognosis for anyone. But if it were true, what choices would you have? Say you were told – truthfully — you would be blind by the next sunrise. The only choice you would have would be how to respond between now and then. You could spend the time:

1)      Cursing God and your fate

2)       Crying

3)       Getting depressed

4)       Getting angry

5)       Bargaining with God, or else…

6)      Visiting family and friends to see them one last time; traveling to your favorite garden or beach or mountain; renting your favorite movie; staying up as long as you could while making love peering into your lover’s eyes…

Am I making my point? If you would want to spend your last sighted day on earth with options 1 through 5, above, that’s your choice and no one would blame you. But come the morning after, you might regret it.

So now let’s get back to dying, a devastating prognosis for anyone. Death gives life meaning, like shadow serves light and the sweet sorrow of parting serves love. Life without death would be cheap and meaningless. And the meaning you ascribe to your life is up to you.

In the face of death, you can choose denial; to be bitter about your mortality; you can get depressed. Or you can be the most un-death-like one can be. To me, this points to joy. A hundred years after you’re dead, they’ll be no one around who ever even heard your name. How would you like to spend your remaining moments?

 Today’s Joygasm:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. — Grace Murray Hopper

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Laurie permalink
    March 8, 2010 12:22 pm

    Yesterday my computer crashed. Like in a bad movie–I’m down to the wire trying to complete revisions on my 125 page dissertation, a little annoyed at not being able to enjoy a sunny first-hint-of-spring day after a bitter winter, but finally rested enough to feel that I’ll get a very productive, full day of work in….when nothing will open up.

    Yes, most of the work is backed up and available on my office computer, but not the work I had done the day before, and not the myriad related files I refer to and that are my version of a young child’s collection of stuffed animals. I just like them to be there.

    I was on my way to my office when I passed by a store I’d never noticed before right around the corner from me – a computer repair store. Operated by a very nice Korean man named “Moon.”

    My computer has been restored to good working order – a bit better than my psyche at the moment. Feeling so pressured! The antidote – just be here. I can do that. There’s really no pressure in just being here – as natural as breathing.

    Thanks, Charley.

    • March 9, 2010 6:22 am

      Yeah…like I said last week — it’s almost too simple for me to grasp. “Pressure” is (for me at least) worry about later. When I take the pressure off, and just arrive here, new options open up.

    • March 9, 2010 6:24 am


      Thanks for your comment. I’ve added my own…


  2. March 8, 2010 1:32 pm

    Short little book you might enjoy: “Invisible” a memoir by de Montalembert

    From Publishers Weekly

    Blinded in a senseless attack in his New York home in 1978, de Montalembert, then a filmmaker and painter, was violently forced out of his intensely visual world. In this raw memoir, more a brainstorming session than a narrative, he approaches his new life with stunning directness, navigating the environs of Manhattan and, not much later, Bali and Greenland, with precocious new confidence and ability. He’s also painfully honest about the effects of his blindness, refusing the comfort of standard tropes about spirituality but finding wonder in the kindness of absolute strangers, isolation from those closest to him, and other un-thought-of moments of triumph and despair stemming from the way his condition affects his closest relationships.

  3. March 10, 2010 1:57 pm

    I’m terrified of death. I try to live “as if” I’m not.

    • March 11, 2010 5:38 am

      Well…as Woody Allen said, “Death I’m not worried about. It’s dying that scares me.” It’s the ultimate transition.

  4. March 11, 2010 12:11 am

    Below is John Trudell’s myspace blog from today. He’s a Native American poet and activist. I thought it fit well here…

    “breath of the sun

    today gives another chance
    to leave behind
    from yesterday
    what needs leaving behind

    creating our tomorrows
    these are our paintings
    the images of our minds
    spirit projections
    from the deep

    today wants to be on our side
    all we have to do is let it to be

    the future tells her children
    be wary of what the past has done
    tomorrow is a dream we dream today

    let the sorrows of yesterdays nightmares
    be the dark that we turn into light
    remember every day is the day we are born

    we are the child of earth
    we are the breath of the sun
    we are life

    in the dimension of dualities
    life is about the simplicities
    the simplicities have complexities
    sometimes the seekers of solutions
    weave the simplicities into elaborates
    creating unneeded complexities
    in a great design of leaving behind
    mazing the simplicities into distant
    forgetting the very heart of nature
    in the experience of living
    its best to have a sense of humor
    or the the spirit can whither and die”

    John Trudell, March 10, 2010

  5. March 12, 2010 9:05 am

    I like your perspective on life and death, one that I share with you, and one that I share with other
    mutually compatible perspectives, the main one being commitment. Others that come to my mind
    are seeing myself as part of history, seeing myself as part of a larger whole in many ways (as a Jew,
    as a fighter against injustice, as a New Yorker,perhaps others). What I just wrote to me begs the question of what joy consists of, because the dominant society leads us to viewing our lives as getting what fulfills our hedonistic needs, and I enjoyed my chocolate mousse last night at a French restaurant as much as anyone else, but would be quite dissatisfied if that were the most important goal in my lie. What we share as Fire Brothers as part of the Sterling legacy is a good start to asking the question, what do I want my life to be and in the context of commitment, everything I do leads me to great happiness and joy.


    • March 13, 2010 6:17 am

      Thanks, Moshe. Naturally I see joy as distinct from mere hedonistic pleasure, although I am suspicious of society’s distrust and disdain for such pleasure. Commitment can certainly lead to joy, but what about all those who live deeply committed, joyless lives?

  6. March 13, 2010 8:20 am

    I know some of those who could use reading what you have to offer!

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