Diligent Joy

An excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love on happiness….

What is “diligent joy”? :  “I keep remembering one of my Guru’s teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think of happiness as a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your inner contentment. It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distres but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.”

Which takes us to”diligent joy”:    “As I focus on Diligent Joy, I also keep remembering a simple idea my friend Darcey told me once–that all the sorrow and all the trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only in the big global Hitler-‘n’-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level. Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. The search for contentment is, therefore, nor merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people.”

In light of all this:   I am profoundly inspired by the children of the Tennessee Valley UU Church involved in the play that was to be performed during that fateful Sunday morning when all hell broke loose, who, during the healing service led by UUA President Bill Sinkford, sang these words from Annie:

The sun’ll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There’ll be sun!
Just thinkin’ about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
‘Til there’s none! 

When I’m stuck a day
That’s gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,

The sun’ll come out
So ya gotta hang on
‘Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You’re always
A day
A way!

“The congregation,” says Annette Marquis, “spontaneously joined in singing with them, and after a few seconds, when the impact of this moment had sunk in, the crowd erupted into applause, tears, shouts, cheers, and many more tears. As the cast finished their grande finale, they took their long-awaited bows to an adoring, grief-stricken, and healing audience.”

Now this is Unitarian Universalism at its best. It’s diligent joy.


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