8 Pillars of joy

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The tagline of this blog is “how to find peace and joy everyday: with gratitude and humility”. Gratitude and humility are two of 8 pillars of joy pointed out by Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Southern Africa, in a 2016 book, “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World”, authored by Douglas Abrams. They group the 8 pillars in 4 attributes of the mind – perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance ; and 4 of the heart – gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, and generosity.

In previous blogs we have touched on some of these pillars even before this book came out, even though we have not systematically enumerated or grouped them as these two titans of spirituality have done. What is most illuminating is how they have reaffirmed the principle that joy is consequential.  Joy comes from a combination of mind and heart attitudes. For example, the mind that has learned to view the world and its daily happenings with a wide viewpoint,  (perspective), contributes to a life of joy. Similarly, the heart that is tuned to respond (to everything) with gratitude adds a significant measure of joy to life.

The book is the culmination of a week that the two luminaries spent together in Dharamsala, India, for the Dalai Lama’s 80th. birthday. Both men know, from personal experience, a life of affliction and sorrow. But they have taught millions too, how to rise above that with joy. At a time when the ailing Desmond Tutu was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and the Dalai Lama spending half a century in exile, the two were able to demonstrate how humor and compassion lift life from anger and vengeance to peace and joy.

Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu

As the author points out, it was a week where a Buddhist monk, a Christian cleric and a Jewish secularist experienced true joy in mutual companionship. The idea in the book is to demonstrate that everyone of us can contribute to our own joy, everyday, when we choose a life governed by the 8 pillars of joy.

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Stay tuned for more insights on these pillars.

 

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If you,re not outraged you’re not listening

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“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”.  Those are words of Martin Luther King Jr. We are afraid unless we can determine, with certainty, the ending of the ventures we are being called to. So, in the story of Peter stepping into the raging water, in the chaos and uncertainty of the sea, our thinking – at least mine – is that Peter should have stayed in the boat. It makes sense because it is safer in the boat.

But the real lesson in this story is taking that first step to meet Jesus who is in the storm.

Faith is active. In the action we cannot be certain of the outcome, we may not know the perils that lie ahead. Heather Heyer posted on her facebook page, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”. And because she was outraged she took a step to participate in expressing that outrage and the growing hatred and intolerance in the country today. It cost her life.

In the story of the Transfiguration, Peter desired to erect dwellings in the glory of the mountain-top;  but the call is to go down into the chaos and uncertainty of Via Dolorosa. That is where Jesus is. He is in the storm, that’s where we meet him, and there is the possibility of sinking.

Audacious or reckless?

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In the last post I commended Peter for attempting to walk on water – meaning making a risky choice to go where Jesus was – rather than stay in the boat, in safety, with the assurance that Jesus is in control of the chaos and the perils. There is another view we hear so often from some circles, especially where spirituality is overemphasized at the expense of social justice.

I am talking about certain approaches when interacting with those in society who are marginalized or are casualties of systems and the status quo. You may have heard, for example, phrases like “all you need is Jesus”, “if you have Jesus, everything is fine”, “try Jesus, after all everything you have tried has failed”, “the problem is, you don’t have Jesus in your life…” and so on.

With this mindset, Peter is faulted for diverting his focus from Jesus to the storm, and that is why he was sinking. This is escapism. We have responsibility, as individuals, communities and as a society to take action; to do everything necessary to alleviate the burden on the vulnerable.

That is why I am sticking with my views in the previous post. It is necessary to take a risk and get into the chaos, in the storm, not knowing what that initial step may lead to. Take risk to meet new people, go to places never been to before, try what you have never tried before. Remember that Prayer for Courage?

  •     Lord God,
  • You have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending;
  • by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown;
  • Give us faith to go out  with good courage, not knowing where we go,
  • but only that your hand is leading us, and your love supporting us;
  • Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

Why would Jesus walk on water?

Jesus walking on water

While on tour of the Holy Land in 1867, Mark Twain enquired from a boat operator in Tiberias how much it would cost to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When he was told it would cost him $25 (because the boat operator mistook him for a wealthy tourist) Mark Twain is reported to have remarked to his wife, “No wonder Jesus decided to walk”.,

The story of Jesus walking on water is probably one of the most remarkable stories in the New Testament. Kids learn it in Sunday School. It is depicted in different forms of art and it affords illustration for different spiritual lessons.

Still, the story raises a number of questions. First, did Jesus need to walk on water and why? How about Peter; and that is the question of interest to me here. What was Peter’s motive in attempting to walk on the water like Jesus? Was it to test Jesus, or simply to show off?

Most people point to Peter’s faith – or lack ofhttps://joelmlayblog.wordpress.com/book-project/called-to-ventures-of-which-we-cannot-see-the-ending-by-paths-yet-untrodden/ – in this story. And many may wonder, why didn’t he simply stay in the boat, in faith that the situation was under control with Jesus? I think though, that the point is about stepping out into the unknown, into the chaos and the raging waters, and knowing that that is where  Jesus is .

The sea’s turbulence represents the chaos in society. Think of the “acceptable” economic system that produces casualties in poverty, homelessness, despair, violence, exploitation, and so on. Our society may accept and defend the status quo as divinely ordained. But true faith as exemplified in Peter’s risk in taking that first step into the chaos leads true followers of Jesus to meet him in the chaos of poverty, injustice and uncertainties of final outcomes.

This is how I find meaning in my favorite prayer:

  • Lord God,
  • You have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
  • by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.
  • Give us faith to go out with great courage, not knowing where we go,
  • but only that your hand is leading us, and your love supporting us;
  • Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.