On Joy

Hi Flavio.

I’m very glad that you find the commentaries on the principles interesting. I appreciate your feedback and your comments. 

As for your recent email, I think that you give a very valid and synthetic answer. If I understand correctly what is being searched for it is a feeling of fulfillment, joyful meaning, a sense of completion.

I agree we should work for nothing less! Is it too much to ask for? I’d say it depends. On examination we might agree that joy is something that arises in front of an open future. When my future feels closed, in danger, unpleasant, etc it’s hard to feel joy. The sense that there is a universe of new possibilities on the other hand… but that’s only one side of the equation. I know all to well that the feeling of joy that sometimes invades me doesn’t last. At the best it is a reminder, a hint at possibilities at the worse a tease of something that I can never have. Than I believe that it’s like the tortures of Tantalus, who hungry and parched could see food and drink just in front of him but permanently out of reach.

But what if that impermanence, that fragmentary and rare experience of fulfilment is because of an error in my approach? What if it is not because of an inherent, inescapable human (or personal) limitation?

Now, I imagine myself with serious contradictions, that is: I think I should follow a particular course of action, but I feel like doing something else and I end up doing a third thing. I find it difficult to imagine feeling joyful, or fulfilled when I am in that kind of situation. Probably you have found that growing internal unity results from coherent action but especially actions that aren’t for one’s own benefit. And why this thing of the actions not being for one’s own benefit? Is that just some addition based  an external morality? What does that have to do with my registers of growing joy and fulfillment? 

I think we can cast some light on that if we rephrase a statement from the beginning of this note where I summarized my understanding of your question. So changing only the phrase, “what is being searched for”, and replacing it with possible synonyms: If I understand correctly what is desired it is a feeling of fulfillment, joyful meaning, a sense of completion. Or again: If I understand correctly what I want to consume it is a feeling of fulfillment, joyful meaning, a sense of completion. These terms (at least for students of Silo’s teaching) signal a particular problem.

Here I think is the paradox: it is of course reasonable, correct, healthy – perhaps even necessary that I seek joy and fulfillment. It’s as if they are the most elevated pleasures possible, and while we may be more, we are not less, than organisms evolved to maintain pleasurable stimuli and avoid painful ones. However, we also know the trap of desire (so well explained in Silo’s first public talk the Healing of Suffering, given almost 50 years ago at Punta de Vacas). As we discussed in recent weeks as regards the principles: the pursuit of joy and fulfillment denies me joy, and fulfillment. Just as the pursuit of pleasure denies me pleasure (even when I “succeed”and get the desired pleasurable object).  

So, how can I resolve this dilemma? I realize that new possibilities open for me whenever I realize that I’m being like that like a person who, admiring the beauty of a falling snowflake grabs it out of the air only to find they have not caught that intricate white pattern but are left instead with only a slightly damp and empty hand.  We see the same paradox and approach to a solution when we try to become internally silent. I sit and carry out whatever internal procedure, and end up listening to an endless litany: “now I’m going to be silent. Oh no I’m talking to myself. Now I’ll be silent. Crap I’m still chattering away. There that’s silence. Shit no, not again…”. 

Silo tells us that to attain silence you need to approach obliquely. Silence can’t be grasped. It arises when we set conditions and put our immediate attention on other ends suitable for things to quiet down. For example, I call my guide (or god, or whomever) and I listen for that quiet voice from so far away. In the measure that I’m listening for that response I’m alert and silent. One can, no doubt, come up with other examples from daily life that illustrate the required indirect, delicate, open-handed approach.

It seems to me that to find the suitable context, or ambit, in which Joy (and Peace, and Force) can manifest we should consider Silo’s comments when he spoke of a kind of existential consumerism (for example in the chat called The Volunteer, which can be found in Silo Speaks, or even more explicitly in an interchange with Buddhist monks that can be found in the same collection of talks). I remember one time when on the same theme he said, it is as if we had transformed ourselves into tubes with a hole at each end and reduced our lives to consuming – whether money, relations, objects, experiences. The result is that we have trapped ourselves by thinking its what goes into us that will set us free, give us fulfillment etc? But what if we are not built for that, what if it is what comes out of us, not what goes in that can happiness and freedom? 

It reminds me of that line from the Christian bible where, in the Sermon on The Mount, the young rabbi says something like: “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles the person; but what comes out, this defiles.” Not the same, but not too far off:  it isn’t what goes into you (what you consume, win, own, get, experience) that can bring your fulfillment; it is what goes out from you (what you create, build, share) that determines your destiny. 

In other words: there is no therapy, self-help book, training, (and as it says in the Healing of Suffering, no movement or political party) that can extricate us from the prison in which we have confined ourselves. The irreplaceable, necessary, indispensible key is found in – I know they often horribly misused, overused, and abused terms – love (caring for others without self-interest) and compassion (placing oneself in the position of the other). 

There are many other paths and arguments that lead to this same conclusion.  Love the reality that you build! It is the acts of unity directed towards others, towards the world that give rise to the possibility of permanently replacing the background climates that plague us (fear, anxiety, suffering of all sorts) with Peace, Force and Joy.

I’m not sure I’ve answered your question or answered it in a useful way. In any case I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to order my thoughts about this question.

Warmest greetings.