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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Is 'consumer joy' supplanting genuine joie de vivre?

Thu, 24 May 2018 14:04:00 +0000 Published in Las Provincias

The genuine joy of living is a satisfaction of spiritual subject ; it is the consequence of a certain fullness of life. What gives us joy is union with the good: "joy is the taste of the good, because to rejoice is nothing other than to savor spiritually the contemplation of a good possessed or expected". (V. García Hoz).

Joy is related to happiness; it is a springboard that brings us closer to it. It is also linked to the spirit of service. R. Tagore puts it this way: "I slept and dreamed that life was nothing but joy. I awoke and saw that life was nothing but service. I served and saw that service was joy".

subject In contrast to this natural, lasting, internalized and helpful joy of living, a circumstantial, passing, narcissistic "joy" is spreading, which is generated outside the person with the financial aid of all artificial stimuli, such as alcohol and drugs. It is not intended to "be cheerful", but to "get cheerful". The result is always what one wanted to avoid: sadness.

It is said that a man in deep melancholy went to visit a doctor in search of a remedy. The doctor began to suggest a list of resources to make him happy: trips, adventures, good food, wines,.... The patient replied that he had had all that and it did not help him to get out of his sadness.
As an infallible remedy, the doctor advised him to visit a very optimistic and lively friend, David Garrick. He was a great actor of the 18th century who had triumphed in entertaining English society.
The patient replied to the doctor: I am Garrick!

The well-known phrase "I need a drink" is no longer exclusive to adults; nowadays it is used by many teenagers and young people to be more witty and daring. They say they "get high" with a few drinks to "break the ice" at parties and be cheerful.

 The truth is different: alcohol is a depressant; after the initial brief euphoria comes a hangover followed by a downturn in mood. More sensible young people think otherwise: "I don't think it's right to have to get high to have fun."

J. B. Torelló affirms that "joy as an anesthetic has been transformed into merchandise; our industrial culture calculatingly produces a certain subject of joy, which is also consumed according to a perfectly elaborated plan (...) The individual, in this consumer civilization, is forced to jump from one pleasure to another and to endure prolonged pauses of tension and discontent".

The suicide of the famous comedian Robin Williams a few months ago is another example of the unraveling of artificial joy. Williams had everything the world had to offer to fill his life: money, power, expensive entertainment, fame. However, far from satisfying him, it left him with an emptiness that led to two failed marriages, drugs, depression, bankruptcy and finally despair. He made a living by making people laugh. Outwardly he could laugh and joke... but only to try to escape - unsuccessfully - from his inner sadness.

The limitless consumption that is currently presented to us as a source of joy is only a mirage. Many people are not joyful because they were victims of this illusion. To avoid deception, it is essential to forge homo gaudens from childhood, so that he or she can live in joy. The most effective resource is not instruction, but to create in the family and in the school an atmosphere of joy with the testimony of parents and teachers who transmit the joy of giving themselves to others.

Educators who make an effort to smile regularly, even when they are having a bad day, help their children or students to be happy. They teach them to see the positive side of every event and not to lose their peace.

Joy is a virtue, which, like all virtues, cannot be improvised; it is the result of a process of repeated acts. But before the habit, there is the attitude of joy, which implies having an eye for the good.