Today I will discuss a topic from one of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis. Lewis is most famous for his Chronicles of Narnia series, but he also wrote many other books. Some of these include his science fiction trilogy, "The Screwtape Letters," "Mere Christianity," and "Surprised by Joy". It is this last book that the idea of Joy comes from.
"Surprised by Joy" is a semi-autobiographical book that Lewis wrote. It details his conversion from Christianity to Atheism and then back to Christianity. Throughout the book, Lewis refers to something he calls Joy. It is important to note that there is a distinction between this and joy. When Lewis refers to Joy with a capital J he is referring to what he calls the central theme of his life. On the other hand, joy with a lowercase j refers simply to a pleasure or satisfaction.
Now that we have this distinction between Joy and joy, we can explore what Joy is. Lewis first mentions it as the central theme of his life. He believed that this Joy was more than simple satisfaction but a shared human experience.
So then what is Joy?
When Lewis first experiences it, he describes it as a desire that is more desirable than any other desire. In other words, this is a desire that we long and crave for more than anything else. It is a Longing for something beyond us that I believe we all experience.
Lewis experiences this and immediately wants to feel this desire again. In fact, Joy appears throughout Lewis's life, often in the least likely of places. Lewis states that we know Joy because the experience of it is completely indescribable. He also says the Joy is a bittersweet stab. By this, he means that Joy is a fleeting moment that is the best feeling in the world. It is also bitter because once it is gone everything else pales in comparison.
I believe that this is an experience that we all share. I know that I have experienced it, and I believe that many other people have.
There is one more thing that we must consider before we have a firm grasp on what Joy is for. We know that Joy is a desire, and for every desire there must be a satisfaction. For example, if you are hungry, that is a desire for food. In other words, Joy is not what needs to be desired, but the thing that satisfies this desire.
Lewis acknowledges this as well and explores what it is that satisfies Joy.
A the end of "Surprised by Joy," Lewis compares Joy to a signpost. To him, and to me also, Joy is a signpost that points to something other and outer, or, in other words, God. Lewis reasoned that if there is this desire beyond other desires, then there must be something to satisfy it that is above all other satisfactions. The answer then is God.
Whether or not you agree with Lewis on this last point, I think that we can agree that there is this experience of Joy that is completely beyond us. So, the next time you experience it, take note of the desire and try to find the satisfaction of this desire.