The wrong question about Joy

It seems to me that joy is a gift

a circle of belonging

a calm knowledge of self

a deep love of people and place.

We westerners are so funny.

We visit another land and meet happy people

and we don’t understand.

We say

“They are so poor. And yet they have nothing at all.”

A terrible feeling -

as if we somehow ended with everything

and they nothing.

In that moment, we know

that it is our possessions that make us happy.

We see nothing when we look at them.

We say

“Perhaps they are happy because they have nothing.”

We pause to think on how burdened we sometimes feel by our possessions,

our need to protect them,

store them,

move them,

organize them,

discard them.

It is a burden, to be sure.

But, no, the thought is evanescent,

a weak whisper.

No, we love our things; they surround and embrace us,

protect us,

give us colour,

an address on earth.

We say

“They know no better. What they don’t know makes them happy.”

We think that, if they

- who have nothing -

saw us

- who have everything -

they would be sad and bitter.

A bad thought,

because the earth cannot sustain many people like us,

who have and use so much.

It is a wrong question, of course.

“How can they be happy when they have nothing?” is not a question.

It is like the ant who sees the butterfly

and asks how she can be happy when she cannot walk.

She has what she has.

She flies upon the wind,

she knows who she is

and whose she is,

and she knows her task.

We are neither joyful because of our wealth nor despite it.

We live in joy when we are well enough,

when we know who loves us,

when we know where we fit in our community

when we have something to do that provides for us and others.

This is not nothing.

This is everything.

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