In the first two posts in this series, I discuss how it is we derive joy from work, from productivity, from additional rest or recreation made possible by improvements in productivity. In the third post, I show how while hedonism is compatible with happiness and pleasure, it can be incompatible with serenity and quietness, two qualities that at times are the most appropriate outlets of joy, with joy an inner quality of the mind, or for those who subscribe, an inner quality of the spirit that is source of happiness or pleasure.
What part then if any we may ask does friendship play in maintenance or facilitation of increase of our joy? Can we have joy without friendship? What exactly is the mechanism via which friendship enhances our joy?
With perhaps a little thought it is obvious that we can have joy without friendship. Since joy can be derived from work, productivity, or productivity enabled rest, friendship clearly is not a requirement for experience of joy. We are well able to experience joy in aloneness.
When our minds are serenaded with serenity and quietness of a restful mind (or spirit), absence of friendship does not have capacity for diminishment of our joy.
Having established that absence of friendship cannot diminish our joy, what exactly is the mechanism via which access to friendship enhances our joy? Does friendship enhance our joy because we are able to share our joy with others? Or does friendship enhance our joy because friends celebrate our joy?
If we are to arrive at a refinement of mechanism of friendship for enhancement of our joy, we must ask ourselves to what extent it is possible to communicate work or productivity related joy with our friends? To this we have that unless your friends are in exactly the same profession as you find yourself, it is very difficult to communicate essence of work or productivity related joy.
As a professional researcher in areas of finance and economics who at times has to endure some rejections from professional journals before same paper is accepted for publication, work related joy I derive from acceptance of a paper for publication is difficult to communicate with parents, siblings, and friends who do not share my profession. There is no way to communicate the value of all of the pent up frustration with the publication process now vented and forgotten because a paper once rejected now has found a home in some reputable journal. When I communicate such success with family or friends, I have to be content with celebration of my success. It sometimes is hollow to have to be content with celebration, as opposed to understanding that enables participation in my joy. Given celebration is all that is attainable, however, I have to make do with celebration, as opposed to understanding of my joy. Celebration of my joy, as opposed to understanding of and participation in my joy cannot, however, enhance my joy.
Celebration of our joy neither can diminish nor enhance quality of our joy.
Only friendship which understands essence of our joy can enhance our joy. Whether we like it or not, mere celebration of our joy, as opposed to participation in, with participation only possible via understanding leaves us hollow though not diminished and wanting of more from our friendships.
One of the reasons family life is breaking down all over the world is because people celebrate their spouse’s joy, but make no effort to participate in such joy. When we merely celebrate others’ joy, as opposed to putting forth of effort to participate in their joy, it matters not what else we do, friendship drifts apart, families drift apart, relationships continue, yet intimacy is gone.
I am of Nigerian origin. One of the traditions of Nigerians is spending of lots of money hosting parties for celebration of turning of a child to be one year old. All of my four children were born in the United States. With exception of our fourth child — our only daughter, my ex wife and I participated in this eminently Nigerian tradition. At the time our daughter was about to turn one, our marriage was in such a rocky situation my ex wife left our matrimonial home for as long as three weeks for gaining of perspective on what it was exactly she really wanted. Naturally, we were not in frame of mind for throwing of a party for our daughter. Perhaps more importantly, at that point in time we no longer were actively engaged with a Nigerian community.
Unless accompanied by dressing up, no party worth throwing is worth its weight in gold. So then we always dressed up our one year olds for their parties, put the parties together, paid for venues or prepared our home for guests, and spent the day having fun.
Subsequent to the party for my first son, I never once could stop asking myself , “is this party really for my child or for adults, myself and my ex wife inclusive claiming to celebrate our child?” “Who really were the people doing all of the eating, dancing, and laughing at these parties?” Certainly wasn’t mostly our one year olds. There was not a single one of those parties at which I could not see my one year old looking all stressed out with all of the attention and posing for pictures, and interaction with adults.
With that in mind, I could not help wondering whether it would have been much better to throw a “saving for college for my one year old party,” a party which put all of the money that would have been spent on the party in an education fund for my one year old. Yes, the parties were fun, but we were merely celebrating our child, not participating in our child’s joy.
Compare parties for our one year olds with parties we threw for same kids when they turned five. The biggest one we threw was for our eldest child. I never wondered nor have I ever wondered why we were throwing the party. The party was for our five year old who at the party was surrounded primarily by his friends, or kids we hoped would become his friends. The party was not just about celebrating our child, but an attempt at enhancing our child’s capacity for finding of joy in friendships and potential friendships. Whether or not it turned out to be so, invitations we sent out implied, “Our son considers you to be his friend.” If that signal of friendship were acted upon, we would have increased the probability that our son would form meaningful friendships. Consistent with participation in their joy, our kids always had fun at and enjoyed celebrations of their birthdays when they turned five.
It takes thoughtful consideration and contemplation to arrive at participation in, as opposed to mere celebration of joys of family or friends.
If our friendships are to enhance our joy, we must exert effort to participate in our friends’ joys; our friends also must exert effort to participate in our joy. This perhaps is the reason it is futile to seek to have thousands of friends. In light of our specific uniqueness, just how many people really can participate in our joys?
In the Bible — with historians confirming David was a real person who was King over ancient Israel — all David needed was one meaningful friendship from Jonathan for access to true participatory encouragement for standing tall in midst of attempts on his life. We perhaps miss it then when we seek for quantity, as opposed to quality in our quest for friendships. One person who truly can understand and participate in our joy is perhaps worth a thousand persons who merely are able to celebrate our joy. With friendship, quality it appears trumps quantity.
If we want to have the highest quality friendships, friendships which enhance our joy, let us seek ourselves to be such to others in our circles of friendship. It is only in our endeavors at providing of the highest form of friendship that we are most likely to discover friends who themselves can provide us with the highest form of friendship — friendship which has capacity for enhancement of our joy.