The joy of sparkling wine and clinking glasses, the joy of meeting friends both old and new. Intense and short-lived, joy is an outpouring of the soul. The fusion of light and sound, joy cuts through the silence in an explosion of life.
Maybe this is why our ancestors lit fires at solstice, and why fireworks are popular today. There is no rhyme or reason to this particular joy; spontaneous, it is born and exists for its own sake in the beauty of the moment.
There is another more intense and enduring joy that stems from creation and accomplishment. And it was for this reason that Bergson created a scale to represent the meaning of human existence. A physical or intellectual creation painstakingly made, the birth of life in the mystery of cells: joy is the wonderment of being confronted with something that has not previously existed, that has come into the world as the fruit of our bodies or minds. The joy of harvest-time, the joy of the yield, the result of contemplating fruits gathered together. The joy of births and marriages, celebrated by the rites and rituals that punctuate the years.
Can we make joy last? Absolutely, according to Spinoza, its thinker par excellence, who speaks of true, profound joy, the kind that can transform our very existence. Born of the accomplishment of our efforts, it is an escalation of the power of existing, which constantly drives us to want more. “Stay hungry, stay foolish”, Steve Jobs told young graduates, poised ready to take on the world. Possibly the best advice we can offer to ignite this appetite for life that should remain with us forever.
(1) « Stay hungry, stay foolish. »