Last week I stayed home from church with Big G, who was all yucky with pinkeye. The big problem with pinkeye is while it’s highly contagious, is doesn’t exactly make its chosen host less energetic or more apt to, say, sleep an extra 3 hours in the middle of the day. (What? A mom can dream!)
Right about when church would have started, Big G said, “I’m such a clever boy. I get to stay home and play with toys!”
“Big G, the only reason you aren’t at church is because you’d infect everyone around you. You’re contagious, not clever.” Of course, then I felt bad for telling my child he wasn’t clever, so I had to amend the statement. “I mean, you’re a very clever boy, but not because you’re staying home from church.”
I know. I’m pathetic.
Still, the gloating continued. He went on and on about how clever he was, and how he got to play with toys and watch shows instead of going to church.
I did what any (mean) mom would do. “Sure! Let’s watch a show!” I turned on the TV and changed the channel…to Music and the Spoken Word. If you’re too lazy to click the link and don’t know what that is, it’s a weekly 30-minute TV program with music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a spiritual message.
Big G was not well pleased. Score: Clever Boy: 0, Mean Mom: 1
The message on Music and the Spoken Word has been on my mind all week. Here’s an excerpt:
Anytime is a good time to think about the purpose of our life, to assess where we are and where we’re going. But we definitely seem to do more of that at the beginning of a new year, as we make resolutions or set goals to do things differently. In the process, we might consider this counsel from American writer Leo Rosten: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. … It is to be useful, to be honorable. It is to be compassionate. It is to matter, to have it make some difference that you lived.”
I’ve had a hard time reconciling Rosten’s counsel with 2 Nephi 2:25: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (That there’s the Book of Mormon, for them what aren’t LDS.) After all, if the scriptures say men are that they might have joy, why is an LDS program quoting someone who says the purpose of life is not to be happy? Yes, I recognize that we probably won’t be happy if we aren’t useful or make some kind of difference. I can concede that point. But still, men are, that they might have joy. It’s right there in black and white!
I think this is part of the problem with my chronic depression. I can’t understand why I’m so sad when it says right there men are, that they might have joy. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. I’m supposed to have joy, dammit! I’m useful, I have a purpose, I make a difference. Where’s my joy?
I’m not saying my life is utterly without joy. Certainly I have joyful moments, times when my soul is full of love and light. Is that what the scripture means? Is “they might have joy” a transient thing? Not so much a nonstop merry-go-round of joy, but more a roller coaster of joy?
Now I have “Roller Coaster of Love” by Red Hot Chili Peppers stuck in my head, but with the word “joy” instead of “love.” That’s a) completely inappropriate and b) not going away anytime soon.
Also, is this joy something we have to earn, or are we entitled to it simply by our existence on earth?
Lots of questions tonight, not a whole lot of answers. Sorry about that.
The one answer I did come across was (go figure) in the scripture footnotes for the word “joy”—it cross-references to “Man, Potential to Become like Heavenly Father.”
Maybe that’s the ultimate answer. In this life we get the roller coaster of joy, and if we can tough it out, “be useful…honorable…compassionate…matter…have it make some difference that [we] lived,” then we get the real deal—the happiness that sticks around.
I certainly don’t have the answers. Do you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Unless you’re going to be a jerk.
I realize it’s a big jump from violated plastic animals to ruminations on the nature of joy in this life, but what can I say? I’m complex like that. Shut up. You love it.