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  • Writer's pictureJKB

The Efficiency of Joy

{NOTE: post written May , 2020. References to the Coronavirus and COVID-19 are time-specific, but the principles are timeless}

I have a theory:

A key indicator of health is how difficult it is to make you happy.

I'll call it the "Efficiency of Joy" Theory.

It's not fully fleshed out.

I've not done clinical trials.

I'm my own lab rat.

I remain as restless as anyone to move through the Coronavirus reality and Stay-At-Home orders. But as my city (Los Angeles, CA), my state, my country and our world are trying to figure out how and when to open back up, I'm also nervous that something I've gained in this season might get lost in the next.

The world-as-it-once-was for me felt like a world of "more". If I wanted to go somewhere, see someone, have a new experience, I had more options. You did too.

Then, we were told to lock down. Our old options were unavailable to us and we had to try to make do with one space and, in many cases, one set of cohabitants.

We've all been doing our best to make the most of more of the same.

As expected, there's been a swell of online activity (healthy and unhealthy). When we can't go to a new restaurant or our favorite beach spot, at least we have an endless faucet of new friends and virtual adventures.

About 3 weeks in, I had a brief moment of clarity. I had just received another Amazon package (another way we often break up monotony). I hadn't ordered anything fun. It was just some office supplies, but opening it gave me a spike of glee.

This coincided with the inevitable screen fatigue that a lot of us are feeling. We can only take so much binge-watching, Zoom meetings and mindless social media zombi-fying and I had reached my dry-eyed, oatmeal-brained limit for the day.

I realized how conditioned I'd become to getting so little from so much.

I was used to having more, consuming more, scrolling more.

But did I get more from more?

Sometimes, yes. The splendor of incredible places I've seen, concerts I've attended and exceptional food I've tasted isn't lost on me. Some experiences live up to expectations and expense.

But I've started to wonder if more is always available and I'm just not healthy enough to notice.

I think there's a reason we're binging John Krasinski's Some Good News (a very low-fi, high-impact report of goodness happening around the world). I think there's a reason my daughter loves learning dance moves on TikTok. I think there's a reason we're seeing people wind back and wind down with activities like gardening, baking, hammocks and long walks. I think there's a reason there's a worldwide shortage of puzzles.

John Krasinki's low-budget, ordinary-heroes show is the hit show we all needed during quarantine.
John Krasinki's low-budget, ordinary-heroes show is the hit show we all needed during quarantine.

It's not as though abundant beauty, humor, connection, surprises and contentment aren't all around us all the time for cheap or free. It's that we'd stopped noticing.

Immunity to the exhilaration of small things isn't a sign of health. It's a sickness and I want to be cured.

It's not just in my amusement, it's in my relationships. In order for me to be happy and content, I don't want my wife, my kids or my friends to have to do perfect or extraordinary things. I want them to be themselves and I want the ability to find joy in who they are and who I am to them.

In my relationship with God, I don't want to rely on mountain-tops, conferences and goosebumps to measure my faith. I want to enjoy stillness, laughter, reminders, whispers.

I want to return to child-like strength when it was instinctive to play, wonder, dream - slow to become anxious and quick to be mesmerized and inspired.

When more options are available to us again, I pray I still need less to have more.

I think it will mean I'm becoming more.

What are some of the "less" or "small" things that are bringing you increased joy right now?


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