Ellis once wrote that perhaps the only sensible way of making a global rating of an individual is on the basis of their aliveness.
James similarly asked the question, what is this mysterious force that jolts a human being into such wakeful aliveness from which greatness blossoms?
Both of these insights center around the fundamental element of the human condition, the experience of joy. The one thing that is around us, waiting for us to allow it in and own.
But make no mistake, the practice of joy is much harder than it sounds. Because the very capacity to feel joy is what makes us vulnerable to pain. The courage to swim upstream against a tide of cynicism, the nerve to be happy and the heart to be hopeful, this is scary for most people.
It means taking their guard down. Which, evolutionarily speaking, makes sense. This defense mechanism has been hardwired into our brains.
Must not rejoice, otherwise the tiger will eat us. There are people looking for vulnerable people, better keep moving. Our naïveté will make us food for the predator.
Even if we feel sorrow for not having expressed our own aliveness, when we come to the razor’s edge of experiencing genuine joy, we start backing the truck up.
Instead, we hide into negativity for protection. We stop ourselves from stepping back into life by criticizing every part of it.
Like when it starts pissing rain like cats and dogs twenty minutes into the annual company picnic and doesn’t stop for the next hour.
We could huddle under our broken umbrellas and sopping blankets and complain about this frustrating act of god, pretending like we’re not getting soaked, and then march home in a fit of rage and vow never to participate in another stupid team building exercise again.
Or we could surrender to the storm, let the rain own us for a few hours, accept the ruthless absurdity of our existence, use this precious moment as a human binding agent and rejoice in the fact that we all get to make this memory together and share it forever.
It all depends on what kind of relationship we have with joy.
Amidst all the hurry and tension of life, challenge yourself to plumb the depths of full aliveness. Be an example of joy in motion. Be willing to make the investment, even if it makes you vulnerable.
And before you know it, the mysterious force that jolts a human being into wakeful aliveness will make itself available to you.
And if you’re fortunate enough to share that joy with others, that only amplifies it.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Have you lost the sense of your own inevitability of being alive?