I recently attended a conference and found myself sitting next to someone. We instantly hit it off. During our time together he made a comment about how he had learned to find and experience joy.

At first glance joy seems like something that we don’t have to learn. It seems like something that just washes over us every so often. It seems like the experience of joy should be instinctual and obvious. But the truth is that even some of the most basic of human emotions and dispositions sometimes needs to be learned.

What does it mean to learn joy? I think it means that we learn how to identify the emotion. I think it means that we look within and discover what kinds of things bring us joy. I think it means that we practice bringing these things into our lives so that we might deepen our learning of joy. I think it means we clarify what, if any, differences we think might exist for us between joy and related emotions like happiness, enthusiasm, contentment, satisfaction and others.

Bob Weir, in the Grateful Dead tune “Black Throated Wind” sings the line, “You ain’t gonna learn what you don’t wanna know.” I think that the idea of “learning” something means deciding what we want to fill and bring meaning to our days and then analyzing how we make it happen. I love the idea of learning joy. Now I need to ask myself: What do I want to learn?

Learning joy