Robert Green Ingersoll suggested that no one should fail to pick up every jewel of joy that can be found in his path. Some people seem able to locate such jewels along the most unlikely and foreboding of paths; all of us might learn from their examples.
I try to remain alert for jewels of joy myself, knowing that such treasures take many forms.
A master jewel of joy finder, in my opinion, was Dr. Viktor E. Frankl. Frankl (1905-1997) was the Viennese psychiatrist who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning and the founder of logotherapy, a school of counseling psychology centered around explorations about meaning in life.
Maslow described a situation in his landmark book that to most might seem a trifling occurrence, but in the context of his early life experience represented a jewel of joy that sparked the greatest of pleasures. It happened during the worst period during his lengthy imprisonment in the Dachau concentration camp by the Nazis during WW II.
What happened showed him that an unexpected surprise of even a miniscule nature that was mildly positive could trigger a momentary sense of gratitude. This would come to pass whenever Frankl or fellow prisoners experienced the smallest of mercies when something horrible DID NOT occur.
We had all been afraid that our transport was heading for the Mauthausen camp. We became more and more tense as we approached a certain bridge over the Danube which the train would have to cross to reach Mauthausen...Those who have never seen anything similar cannot possibly imagine the dance of joy performed in the carriage by the prisoners when they saw that our transport was not crossing the bridge and was instead heading 'only' to Dachau.
Here we are, comfortable and secure with our lower level needs on Maslow's famous hierarchy well attended. In addition, many upper rungs on this hierarchy (e.g., self actualization) are probably in sight, expressed by our interests in reason and science, exuberance and happiness, exercise and nutrition and all manner of personal freedoms and choices. Furthermore, the fact that this country and a good part of the world is still going along nicely is a worthy basis for our own gratitude. Very few of us fear anything remotely like Mauthausen or Dachau, though politicians like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and the Tea Party are a worry.
It seems fitting for those of us who treasure optimal health, joy, life quality and other such states to set aside, now and then, a few moments to breathe deeply and ponder our good fortune. It is always a good time for conscious awareness of and appreciation for such facts. We have so much going for us. We sit atop a pile of jewels in the form of fortunate contingencies that made our good lives possible. Every one of them, including the vast majority which are not known to or knowable by us, can be seen as a jewel of joy.
Of course, we might also remember that not all our jewels were obtained solely by our own efforts. Most are likely consequences of plain and simple good fortune to be born and raised in decent times in favored places.
So let us make the most of these circumstances, all of which are jewels of joy.
Consider making a list of your own jewels of joy for which you are grateful. Be sure to add something like not headed to Mauthausen, Dachau or any place remotely like either, anytime soon.
When I started on my own list of jewels of joy for which I’m grateful, I included an item about Christian and Muslim fundamentalists in America. Namely, appreciation that there are not more of either group than there already are.
CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM
I often wonder which religion, Christianity or Islam, represents the greatest threat at present to common decencies or humanist values? However, I don’t dwell on the matter for long. While fundamentalist pro-life Christians have engaged in their share of heinous acts, including murder and terrorism of those who safeguard free choice and are a constant threat to the wall separating religion and government, I don't for a minute believe the Christian threat level is on a par with that posed by their Islamic counterparts.
This is not to compare Christian and Muslim history. To do that would surely tip the scales of misery foisted on the world to Christianity as the vilest of religions these past thousand or so years. Hands down. I'm only focusing on present day.
Christian leaders, unfortunately, exercise disproportionate influence
on our public affairs. They do this through their agents in Congress and elsewhere who tirelessly advance horrendous policies based upon Christian dogma.
Islam is at the root of countless totalitarian societies. It is an unrivaled oppressor of women in terms of education, personal freedoms, opportunities and so much else that Westerners take for granted. Its holy book and dogmas are at least as destructive as the Christian bible. Islam is a relentless enemy of free speech, freedom of imagination and freedom from fear. It is an enemy of secularism, skepticism, modernity; it promotes fear and revenge, rage and terror while discouraging rational thinking and opposing democracy, minority rights, multiculturalism, doubt, irreverence, satire, comedy, joy, happiness and change. It is a religion of terrorism, book burning, intolerance, censorship, taboos, radicalism, group think, fatwas, female subjugation, stoning, sexual repression, torture and oppression. It is, in short, an enemy of all the infidels - meaning non-Muslims and Muslims alike, if the latter are not the right kind of Muslims as defined by varied ayatollahs in different places at varied times!).
Yes, Christianity merits some of these labels, but not so much today as in the past. (Yes, things might be different if they had even more power, but they don't.) Yes, organized, conservative right wing Christians seek to take down the wall of separation with their public prayers, cheerleader banners, Jesus portraits in school hall ways, under God pledge and one nation under God graffiti on our money, violation of public spaces with jejune commandments, baby Jesus displays and so on. Annoying as hell and cause for maximum resistance, but not on a par with the danger from Islamic radicalism widely shared by Muslim masses.
I have heard on more than one occasion Muslim leaders themselves describe their faith as a revolt against history. In other words, they want a return to the good old days of the medieval period - or earlier. A caliphate would do nicely, that is, a political-religious state similar to what existed following the death (ad 632) of the Prophet Muḥammad serving a Muslim community and all lands and peoples under its dominion.
So I am grateful that the adherents of neither religion are yet completely in control of our democratic civilization, as envisioned by Enlightenment philosophers and the likes of our own imperfect but honored heroes - Ingersoll, Jefferson, Paine, Adams, Lincoln and the best of the rest.