Knowing joy

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward – Kahlil Gibran

I think we may have lost the ability to know what joy is. How would we achieve this in a world of our own stress, our challenges and striving to be the top dog? 

Listen to the “Ode to Joy” where freude (joy and happiness) fills our soul. Remember that Beethoven was composing this symphony in his head as he was going deaf. For him, the private disaster of his deafness was little short of a catastrophe. Not only had he created a song of praise, he could not hear it, or the applause from the audience.

This is the type of world we need to make, creating joy in millions of people not for glory, but instead for unselfish sharing.

Sigmund Freud said: “What good to us is a long life if it is difficult and barren of joys, and if it is so full of misery that we can only welcome death as a deliverer?” This has been the rallying call of poets, writers and philosophers. While I understand that much beauty is the result of pain, so is that true about joy.

Last week trawling the Internet, I came upon the word “forfreude” meaning literally the joy in anticipation. Imagine the whole world full of the childlike excitement; as though we were looking through Willy Wonka’s eyes?

Of course this is not the normal state of life, however if we seek a little oasis of calm the break in the journey seems less tiring.

Paying it forward

In my view what is needed is to take the final step; creating a word to express joy in the joy of other people’s achievements and happiness. This means leaving the envy or resentment behind; merely fuelling their joy and celebrating it because you can. This may make you happier, which is probably enough for most of us mere mortals.

I want to call this and redouble it. Paying it forward is not enough we must exult in the good fortune of others. Revelling in the sun on our face, seeing the clouds, eating with gusto, giving thanks; all of this while praying that their joy is greater. Without resentment, we lose the need to assess the size of the other fish in the pond we find ourselves in. Instead glorying in the knowledge that your life may be the way it is meant to be.

Somewhere, somebody could be dishing up their love and happiness with the pure intention of giving joy to you.


Rev. Doctor Gereth Edwards was a practicing plastic surgeon, co-founder of the Netcare Milpark Hospital - Breast Care Centre of Excellence and the Breast Health Foundation. He then refocused his life and qualified as a minister. He writes from both a scientific and humanities view.