Yesterday I was chatting with some friends of mine at church, and the subject came around to the joy that my mother and I share at planning trips. I found, much to my amusement, that the other people I was talking to did not enjoy the process of planning trips at all, so much so that some of them outsource the activity to other relatives who enjoy it more. Yet this particular aspect of planning trips is one of the forms of the three joys that we can experience in life, and it is always something to be regretted when for one reason or another we cannot enjoy something provided by life, as life is hard enough for many of us that we ought to celebrate whatever enjoyment we can find.
If we seek to define the three joys, we might label them something like the joy of anticipation, the joy of experience, and the joy of remembering. The joy of anticipation includes all of those aspects of enjoyment where we savor something that has not happened yet–it is the joy of hoping, the joy of planning, the joy of expecting what will come, guessing what will happen without being too sure of what it is like. It is, of all the joys, the most indistinct because we cannot know fully how things will happen but it is the joy that allows us to do what is necessary to experience joys that are difficult to attain. These joys that we experience are the second kind of joys, the joys of the present that we appreciate and celebrate in the moment. The third and final kind of joy we consider here is the joy of remembering, and that is the joy that we have when we reflect upon what we have done in the past, which has found its way in our memory, the joy that we recall and bring to our attention from that which we have stored in our mind.
Given that these three joys encompass the past, present, and future, it is clear that they are complete when taken together. It follows therefore that the most complete pleasures are those which are relished in anticipation, enjoyed in the experience, and also savored in remembering them. If we look forward to something with eagerness, enjoy it as it is going on, and continue to reflect fondly on it looking back at it, it is a complete joy, lacking nothing. Not all joys are this way. Sometimes we anticipate pleasure but do not find the experience or the memory of it to be all that we hoped it would be. Some things that we do not enjoy looking forward to them end up being enjoyable in the moment and in retrospect, and we are left only regretting that we had looked forward to them more and saved ourselves some measure of worry or anxiety about them. Some things we look forward to and enjoy them at the time, but in retrospect they take on a hint of sadness and regret that do not allow us to look back on such times as being happy ones. There are even things–such as many of my surprising quests–that I do not anticipate as being joyful, nor do I enjoy them in the moment, but looking back at them I find them to have been surprisingly full of enjoyment in the thrill of the chase for that which I did not think would require any sort of effort at all.
I leave this topic with some questions for my dear readers. What sort of joys do you anticipate in the future? What sort of joys do you look forward to that you have not yet experienced? What sort of enjoyment do you find in your day-to-day life, either in momentous occasions or surprising moments or in ordinary and regular existence? What sort of experiences in the past do you find to be especially sweet to remember? Are there any experiences which you thought of as joyful in the past that no longer appear to be so because circumstances have changed? Are there any situations that you did not enjoy in the past while you were going through them that you enjoy now looking back at them? Do you find it something worth celebrating to have new sources of joy in your life, and do you feel something lacking when a source of joy that you previously had is diminished for some reason?