Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Primer on Joy

Joy is an emotion in response to a pleasant observation or a remembrance thereof. The reason for a joyful reaction is usually that some expectation or need has been satisfied. Joy is usually expressed as a smile, a laugh or exclamation of joy.

Joy differs from happiness in that it is an emotion. Happiness, on the other hand, is what we might think of as a feeling, which is more fleeting. Joy may be thought of as "the emotional dimension of the good life, of a life that is both going well and is being lived well."

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Euphrosyne (Goddess of Merriment)

Euphrosyne, in ancient Greek religion, was one of the Charites, known in English as the "Three Graces". She was usually called Euthymia.

Greek Mythology

According to Greek myth, Euphrosyne and the two other Charites were daughters of Zeus and the Oceanid Eurynome. The Greek poet Pindar states that these goddesses were created to fill the world with pleasant moments and good will. Usually the Graces attended the goddess of beauty Aphrodite and her companion Eros and loved dancing around in a circle to Apollo's divine music, together with the Nymphs and the Muses. She is usually depicted with her sisters.

Euphrosyne is a Goddess of Joy or Mirth, and the incarnation of grace and beauty. The other two Charites are Thalia (Good Cheer) and Aglaea (Beauty or Splendor). Her half-brother is Hephaistos, or Hephaestus, the god of metalworking and volcanoes. Her name is the female version of a Greek word euphrosynos, which means "merriment".

In Roman myths the Graces where known as the Gratia.

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Joie de Vivre

Joie de vivre, joy of living) is a French phrase often used in English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit.

It "can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do… And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life, a Weltanschauung. Robert's Dictionnaire says joie is sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience, that is, involves one's whole being."

Origins and Development

Casual use of the phrase in French can be dated back at least as far as Fénelon in the late 17th century, but it was only brought into literary prominence in the 19th century, first by Michelet (1857) in his pantheistic work Insecte, to contrast the passive life of plants with animal joie de vivre, and then by Émile Zola in his book of that name from 1883–84.

Thereafter, it took on increasing weight as a mode of life, evolving at times almost into a secular religion in the early 20th century; and subsequently fed into Lacanian emphasis on "a jouissance beyond the pleasure principle" in the latter half of the century – a time when its emphasis on enthusiasm, energy and spontaneity gave it a global prominence with the rise of hippie culture.


20th century proponents of self-actualization such as Abraham Maslow or Carl Rogers saw, as one of the by-products, the rediscovery of what the latter called "the quiet joy in being one's self...a spontaneous relaxed enjoyment, a primitive joie de vivre".

Joie de vivre has also been linked to D. W. Winnicott's concept of a sense of play, and of access to the true self.

See Also

  • Bon viveur
  • Carpe diem
  • Élan vital
  • Epicurus
  • Flow (psychology)
  • Happiness
  • Joy
  • Quality of life
  • François Rabelais

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Afterword by the Blog Author

It is the philosophical position of the blog author not to chase happiness; instead, “let it chase you.”  This is especially true since modern pharmacology has revealed concoctions that induce happiness.  Since they are addictive, they also create a cyclone of unhappiness in the long run.

It may serve as an instructive warning that joy is mirth and thus a goddess, Euphrosyne, one of the three Graces.  This is a serious force that should not be dallied with or teased.

Finally, there is a consuming trance of joy known by its scientific name “flow.”  This was the subject of the February 8, 2012, Daily Quiddity blog entry.

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