From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Joy

Considering the title of this blog, I thought I'd take J day to explain what exactly I mean by "Joy". I apologize in advance for being rambly, vague or philosophical, and for the heavy use of C. S. Lewis quotes. I sort of think that this is going to be one of those things that you either totally get or don't, which probably just means you're a bit saner than I am. But here goes.

So, for as long as I remember, I've had this kind of passionate, unsatisfied craving thing inside of me that kind of felt too big for my body. The way it comes across in my personality has been called effervescent, which has subsequently become one of my favorite words. Anyway, I've needed, hated, and been confused by this feeling for as long as I've had it. I didn't know why I felt that way, or even what exactly I was feeling. Most of all, I didn't know how to explain it or if anyone else felt anything similar. Then a couple years ago I took a C. S. Lewis class (best class I ever took...at least one of them) and he hit it exactly. I mean EXACTLY. He put into words what I thought was impossible to describe, and suddenly I knew I wasn't alone or crazy.

Here come the C.S. Lewis quotes. He said, "I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described." That was my first clue that he knew what I was feeling. Then he defined it perfectly as "that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is."

So that's what I was feeling. I had a name for it now. Like Lewis said, it is never in our control, though for he and I what often brings it up are memories from the past, nature, intensely deep love for someone, and, a big one for me, art (meaning literature, music, theater, art, etc.) Now I knew why I could watch certain movies and feel like exploding, painfully but gloriously unsatisfied, like watching it again and again would not be enough...I wanted to be the producer, director, actor, every member in the audience, and the movie itself, and still that wouldn't satisfy me. That seems kind of weird to say, but its how I felt, and I felt like Lewis was corroborating me.

Where this feeling, this kind of "Joy," comes from, is where it gets spiritual for me, and you're free to disagree or form your own thoughts about it. But as for Lewis and I, when (in my header quote) he says "meant for another world," he means Heaven. He says, "Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing." He says that the things that bring us this feeling "are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited." This works for me as an explanation. I like the idea that "Joy is the serious business of Heaven."

In terms of creating this in our own art, this is where we can turn to Lewis' good buddy J.R.R. Tolkien. He says "The peculiar quality of the 'joy' in successful Fantasy [any art] can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth." So basically, in his definition Joy comes from accessing or glimpsing the universal Truth or Reality of a thing. He says good art provides "a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and let's a gleam come through." I think honesty and vulnerability have a lot to do with getting to this "universal" point.

Anyway, this has already gone on WAY longer than I'm sure any of you time for, but it explains the title of this blog, the two quotes I have in the header, and basically it explains me, if thats not too presumptuous to say. In talking about this I always feel that I haven't done the subject justice in the least, that it would take volumes. I also feel slightly exposed, and kind of hope you do too. Mostly right now I hope, with Lewis' help, that I've explained everything at least somewhat understandably, and that you find help, ideas or corroboration as I did in what Lewis has to say. If I could wish you anything it would be that today, you find joy.

Sarah Allen

p.s. Several of you mentioned wanting my answers to the questions from yesterday. I was going to post those today, but clearly I've gone on much too long, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow. I know it will be hard, that you are just dying to hear even more about me, but you'll just have to be patient.

26 comments:

  1. Thank you for these insights into joy.

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  2. Thanks for this great post on Joy! Love it.
    http://tyreanswritingspot.blogspot.com/

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  3. What an absolutley fantastic post! I say that because I have also felt that feeling most of my life...that feeling of intensely striving after a desire and being more satisfied by the longing than any concrete satisfaction I've ever had,if that makes any sense...and that does make a person feel exposed and raw. I especially can relate to feeling like you want everyone who had anything to do with a movie, song or book that resonated with you, to be...not just with you, but part of your DNA..that's how I feel about any piece of art that has really spoken to me..watching it over and over just isn't enough..I will disagree with you about Heaven..but I love the quote about art providing a 'piercing glimpse of joy that for a moment passes outside the frame...'
    I also disagree with you about going on too long! I wanted you to go on longer!! Excellent, informative post Sarah! I really appreciate it...and by the way, congratulations on your 'Lovely Blog' award!! That's awesome! Peace and JOY for the day!

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  4. Sarah - I have experienced this joy, too. It's almost like your heart is going to explode and you are, for a moment, perfectly in tune with the world, with God, with yourself. It is a headiness that is nearly impossible to describe, yet it gives you a high no drug could ever hope to come close to. I've felt this joy while walking in God's nature, while being with family, while spending time with my daughter or my husband, while writing. It is one of the most perfect, most satisfying, wonderful feelings in the entire world.

    I get it. Completely. :-) Thanks so much for sharing.

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  5. Hi Sarah! I loved this post.
    I've been changing things in my life recently, basically coming back to my infant-self, when things where clear and I knew what I wanted - joy. I lost it along the way, trapped in growing up, being responsible, mature, etc - all good concepts, but misguided, in my case. I remember when just watching the sunset filled me with something "outside of this world", and I love Lewis idea of "Heaven teasing". I perfectly understand what he meant. Thank you for this post!
    - EEV

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  6. Sarah, I really enjoyed this post. I can identify with the feeling. I also appreciate that you used "effervescent" which I previously only thought of in relation to Alka-Seltzer and did not realize it meant something as awesome as "bubbly." That's what I get, I suppose, for defining words by context clues.

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  7. sarah,
    what an awesome, uplifting post. I feel joyful already! I wish you continued joy as well, and im glad to have met you through this a-z!
    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  8. Thanks for sharing this post on joy! I love the quotes you used and that kind of joy is exactly the kind I feel while pursuing a writing career. :)

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  9. Hi. I know exactly what feeling you are describing, and it's certainly effervescent!
    I am also a painter, and about ten years ago, I painted a painting about seeking out this feeling--trying to catch it when it's just beyond you. That painting is called, "The Induction of Longing."
    It remains a favorite painting, and favorite title.

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  10. What a fantastic read! Embrace your inner "joy." It's a terrific characteristic and C.S. Lewis is a wonderful reference. I liked the tie in to your title as well!

    Nice blog!

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  11. I love CS Lewis, and I love this post. I struggle with that deep sense, too, and I think it's helpful to remember the purest form of joy is something we won't experience here except for glimpses of it. CS Lewis is brilliant, so any discussion including him is more than welcomed.

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  12. So few people know Lewis and Tolkien beyond their more popular/famous works. They were icons in more than one field and I'm glad you were able to discover it :)

    Love love love the quote on your header!

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  13. C.S. Lewis had a unique gift for being able to put words to spiritual realities. I think the word that Tolkien coined for the moment that type of joy manifests its self in a story was "eucastastrophe". Every story should have one, in my opinion.

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  14. Thank you everyone! Even more corroboration for me :) I'm glad to know other people feel this way, and to get your thoughts on what it means. Thank you for sharing!

    Sarah, I was going to use Tolkien's eucastrophe quote, but that was getting a bit more complicated then a blog post could take, I think. But yes, I love his explanation, that word and everything that goes with it :)

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  15. I don't think you've rambles nearly enough. There's so much yet to be said... :-)

    Thank you for your kind words and visit to my blog!

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  16. Nice way of explaining inner joy.

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  17. LOL I got a kick out of this post - especially out of your descriptives. Lovely:)

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  18. Hi there! Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

    I can COMPLETELY relate to that feeling of exploding. I can't imagine taking a class dedicated to one author but I definitely can appreciate the knowledge you've imparted :)

    Here's to joy!

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  19. Your definition for 'Joy' is soooo much better than mine: dishwashing soap.

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  20. You've said almost exactly what I feel inside of me and never had words to explain. Thanks!

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  21. Interesting definition of joy!

    Great post, and I will definitely be back for more.

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  22. Absolutely amazing definition, thank you for sharing. It's given me something to ponder this morning. And even though I don't know that I could explain Joy to someone else now, I know exactly what you mean ^_^

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  23. I love C.S. Lewis, for the same reasons you describe. The way he could put into perfect words the deep, unmet longings of my own heart. That feeling that I have always equated with loss, but can also equate with a longing for joy. Lovely post.

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  24. thanks for stopping by beautiful chaos. when i have time, i want to come back and read this. i love anything about C. S. Lewis. my quotes for yesterday were about joy.

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  25. beautiful thoughts on joy...and Lewis and Tolkien were great thinkers.

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