For much of my childhood and youth, I was called Joy, one of the reasons I was able to grasp the concept of irony easily. I have always been particularly struck by the sound of the word when bellowed. More recently, I enjoyed “Joyce” pronounced Joyeeeese bellowed by the 45 year “superior” in my tai chi outfit. I came running as fast as my 70 year-old legs would carry me.
But that’s just more of the same black humour.
I had a dream the other night – as they say in song – it featured Mendelson Joe, an ex-rocker of some note and a naive artist and activist, whom I knew 30 years ago. In the dream, he was taking me to Montreal on the back of his motorbike. I’ve ridden on the back of a motorbike once around the neigbourhood and it was not sheer joy, but this long excursion made me happy. We stopped for a break and Joe parked his bike beside his friend’s bike in a field. When we were ready to go, we began walking toward the field, which suddenly and swiftly began to fill with water. By the time the two men rushed in, the bikes were completely submerged. They were able to drag them out. They were big strong bikers after all. Whether the bikes still worked I never found out.
Later as I was having my morning pu-er, I opened the I Ching at random and found “Lake”, the trigram for it is a broken or yin line over two solid, yang lines. Lake contrasts to the mountain, the culmination of solidity. Instead Lake is concentration through pooling. Certainly my dream was a dramatic illustration of that.The swift, silent flow of water was astonishing. Whereas the mountain is proud and upthrusting and in danger of excessive isolation, lake gathers through lowness.
I turned to Hexagram 58 (6 lines, a double of the lake trigram, the first yin at the top and the last yang at the bottom -lake above, lake below). The pictograph or Chinese letter representing it has 2 “dancing” legs under a rectangle ( a smiling mouth) and above it, 2 waving arms. It is called Tui, translated as “The Joyous, Lake” by the Wilhelm/Baynes English version of the I Ching, “Exchange” by Deng MIng Dao’s and “Delight” by Thomas Cleary.
I had opened the I Ching at random, but then, as my favourite detectives are fond of saying, “There’s no such thing as a coincidence”. (Cue eerie music.)
“True joy,” Wilhelm tells us rests on firmness and strength within. Deng says, “True joy relies on inner strength and remains gentle and wielding on the outside”. Cleary says, “When difficulty is entered with delight, people forget their toil, …. people forget their death.”
All three emphasize that it is the coming together of waters, the exchange of two lake waters, of human interaction that brings joy.
And no, no whining that there is no strength within. Of course there is, although it may not feel as if it is of your own making. (Speaking to myself, you understand)
In the last few weeks, I have posted a series called “Bulletins from Shangri-la”. See 115journals.com describing the joy I found in a Sierra Nevada mountain village. I am now back at sea level. I am thankful that spring finally arrived here while I was away. The trees are fully leaved. The lilacs are just opening. The urban woods I walk in is walkable once again. The hawk surveys me from her tree top as I pass.
And yet —-
My nephew passed on this week at the age of 42 nine months after a terminal diagnosis, months full of suffering. He was cared for at home throughout this ordeal.
And there are other family problems, unresolved and festering.
I have an image of my mother’s recently emerged and happy spirit https://115journals.com/2014/05/25/bulletin-from-shanri-la-4-spirits/welcoming my nephew into her joyful embrace. A comforting thought. He seems to have zoomed right through the veil. But I am still sad and aware that my grief is as nothing compared to my sister’s.
As to the other problems, I woke up this morning and asked myself what I could contribute today. Yesterday and the day before, I listened to those suffering. Today I saw that I needed to do something different.
I wrote in my journal:
See the light.
Open you heart.
Deng says, “If we must have forbearance through times of suffering and adversity, then we must have happiness in times of joy.” Joy once experienced can never really vanish. Open the flood gates and water will rush in.