15 jan Pleasure versus joy
I just read an article by Zadie Smith on the difference between pleasure and joy. What is the difference? Joy, according to Smith, may be ‘the intense version of pleasure, arrived at by the same road – you simply have to go a little further down the track.’ This thought inspires me to think about my own experience. What gives me pleasure? An article that I wrote and that is published; the car whose engin will start despite the cold; losing a pound or two after Xmas; buying books through Amazon.com. But joy is something quite different: it is a pure joy to find fresh powder snow on a sunny morning in the Alps or to smell fresh bread and coffee in the morning. Joy has is positive emotion, that makes you long for more. Joy makes me happy, while pleasure just slightly touches my feelings. The older I get, the easier it seems to feel joy. Small things I hardly noticed become sources of joy: a bird washing himself in a ceramic bowl that happens to stand on the table in my garden. Or the fireplace, suddenly much more than just fire and rather the symbol of comfort, security and peace. It gives me pleasure to be able to feel joy more often than in the past. I used to dislike joy because it meant that after the joy some kind of disppointment would turn up. The after-joy might mean depression or hang over or loneliness. Now it is easier for me to handle joy as a gift, a surprise coming from my complicated chemical factory, a substance that I cannot manage or control, that comes and goes as it pleases and makes me feel happy and joyful. The question is: can I dictate joy? Can I repeat the feeling, say, of the joy I feel when I see the bird washing himself in my garden? Or does joy, after the first time, become pleasure? I enjoy a pair of nice boots, when I buy them I feel joy, after a while it becomes a pleasure to wear them. Pleasure is longer lasting than joy. Joy is exclusive, rare, for some people maybe even non existent. Children, used to be a pleasure, but now is a complex joy, a mixture of fear, hope, expectations, love and more fear. It is not a pleasure (I agree on this with Zadie Smith), it is hard to explain what it is really, but I experience it as a joy. To feel warm inside because they are there, alive, healthy, learning, growing. This joy is lasting, a big relief, for I feared that joy was volatile. I know what gives me pleasure and I can go and look for it. I know what gives me joy, but I cannot order it. Joy leads its own life and somehow it appears only when you are ready. Joy is maybe only for the naive, the unspoiled, childish part of us. As soon as you start thinking about it, it becomes false or disappears to become a second hand joy, or pleasure. Joy is joy if it is a spontanous. Joy is what surprises me most and that’s why I call it joy and not pleasure.