Thursday, December 18, 2008

Volleyball and Joyous Ecstasy

Photo scanned from Sports Illustrated.

Double click the pic and study the faces. You are expert at studying faces. Study these.

Will they ever again be this joyfully ecstatic? About anything? Ever again?

Possible future joyously ecstatic moments - either their or their friends':

1. Wedding Engagements
2. Confirmed Pregnancies
3. Childrens' births
4. Childrens' sports successes
5. Childrens' arrivals at home from war zones
6. Discoveries that tumors are benign

Other possibilities:

7. Being proven right in arguments with their spouses
8. Favorite sports teams' successes
9. Favored DWTS or AI candidate successes
10. Victories in card or board games over their friends/families
11. Winning payouts from Casino slot machines

Humans like dramatic outcomes which prompt overt expressions of joy. We crave it, even, to various extents. I suspect this is part of the appeal of Casinos: patrons crave the dramatic excitement and the potential expressions of joy. We crave the dopamine surges.

Is it a shame we rarely express joy when acing a calculus test? Or when excellently dusting a ledge or raking a yard? Or when excellently completing a short yet significant work project? Ought we search out ways of more frequently expressing joy in these situations?

Or, would that be exhausting? Would frequent experience of joy result in devaluing the experience? Therefore, is it equally valuable and life affirming to experience quiet satisfaction?

There are no absolute rules to guide our experiences of joy and ecstatic joy. Humans and situations are complex and unique.

I drove across country and then picked up my niece and nephew from their after-school program. They were expecting me. My First Grader niece saw me and ran 60 feet to joyously spring into my arms. Was this about me? Sort of. It was overwhelmingly about the complex and unique circumstances working in her life at that moment. My Fourth Grader nephew was intently playing a game and did not arise. He was satisfied to see me. I'll speculate that he was very satisfied to see me. But he wasn't joyously ecstatic. He had his own set of complex and unique circumstances working. I expect he had more potential joy coming via playing and maybe winning his game. I expect he had peers watching his interaction with me. This expanded the complexity of the situation.

It's interesting to consider how we experience and incorporate either joy, satisfaction, or dissatisfaction. This is an area in which thinking it and understanding it - before, sometimes during, and sometimes after(interpretation of events) - can be a part of creating it and living it.

We can help create legitimate emotions when we wish to. When an actor wants to cry: he/she thinks of something sad, makes a crying face, and pretty soon is crying. Is the actor legitimately sad? For the moment: yes. Legitimately crying? For the moment: yes.

Similarly, we can create joy when cleaning the bathtub. We can think of our fantastic clean tub accomplishment and then imitate the volleyball girls: thrust arms in the air and make the joy face! I expect we can actually generate a dopamine surge. Cleaner bathtubs might eliminate a lot of losses at Casino slot machines.

It's also interesting the way cultures encourage or discourage emotion and emotional displays. It's my impression the English generally consider American expression of emotion to be fakery and bad manners. Americans cannot truly be so happy or sad. It is ungenuine. It's a way Americans have of calling attention to themselves, and it is embarrassing for Americans, and is another bit of evidence that Americans are unsophisticated rubes.

For our part, we Americans frequently think we embrace fully experiencing life - including fully experiencing human emotions. However, American culture is strangely stunted regarding fully experiencing agony and grief. Many cultures encourage fuller expression of these emotions than does our culture. My sense of it: Americans (subconsciously?) look at agony and grief not so much as valuable parts of a full palette of human experience, but rather almost as personal weaknesses to be overcome. In our headlong rushing towards happiness, we respect neither the value nor the necessity of yin/yang.


Webutante said...

This is a wonderful post and very thought provoking. Over the years, I've come to think of happiness---and its opposite, unhappiness--- as being directly related to external situations like the exuberant one above. Joy, on the other hand, I think of as coming from an internal condition having nothing to do with external. Hence one can have joy in tribulation, sadness and the smallest of things. I also think of joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

So glad you brought this up.

gcotharn said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment.