Time for another shot in the arm, a shot of optimism. We have been battling Covid and Delta and getting our vaccinations, wearing our masks, and doing all we can to avert further spread of this deadly pandemic. Every so often I write something to lift your spirits, my readers and Anonymous Angels, and I want to do that today.
Before you read any further, ask yourself a simple question: What gives me joy? Maybe it’s a soft kiss from a grandchild—or a sloppy one! Maybe it’s
an unexpected reconciliation with someone, or the news that you’re cancer-free. Maybe it’s a professional success or a boost in your salary. Maybe it’s the sudden gift of being in the right place to see a glorious sunrise or to observe a very special person appear before you, arms outstretched, heart beating with love. What gives you joy? Why not make a list of what gives you joy? Take an inventory. What makes your heart skip and your gut shake with visceral happiness? Whatever it is, you can be sure it comes from God.
Organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, says that true joy, however, takes place with others; it’s a collective experience. “Peak happiness lies mostly in collective activity,” he opined in a recent New York Times essay. Referring to pioneering sociologist, Emile Durkheim, Grant writes, “We find our greatest bliss in moments of collective effervescence.” In other words, we need someone or several people to share in a happy moment. Before the pandemic, we enjoyed collective effervescence on average three times a week when we gathered for choir or sports or coffee in cafes or yoga, etc. But the lockdown dissipated much of this ‘good contagion’ as Grant calls it. He points out that people laugh five times as often when they’re with others as alone. And, interestingly, he says that people who are introverts suffer more depression than extroverts during lockdowns. The extroverts will seek diversions, whereas introverts tend to allow the negatives of a lockdown to deepen their loneliness.
Last June, my community invited all our Sisters from across the country to come to the Motherhouse for a weekend when the lockdown was lifted. In all my years of anniversary and vow celebrations, or the many days when we acknowledged each other’s achievements, this weekend of welcoming and hugging, and singing and playing was on top of my list of joyful experiences, right up there with the day we merged two communities into one. We had no meetings to attend. We celebrated the deaths of the 22 Sisters who died during lockdown. We enjoyed renewing our friendships, sharing our meals and ringing in the evenings with singing and karaoke and dancing. It was a joie de vivre experience like no other. We threw our concerns to the Holy Spirit as if we had no cares but to hold on to each other while grabbing life preservers in this tumultuous sea and laughing all the while. This was the perfect experience of ‘collective effervescence.’ And everyone of us knew it took everyone of us to achieve.
Adam Grant concludes his essay saying we should be more concerned with collective effervescence than with personal euphoria. I will quote his powerful ending in full. “The Declaration of Independence promised Americans unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we want that pursuit to bring us bliss, we may need to create a Declaration of Interdependence. You can feel depressed and anxious alone, but it’s rare to laugh alone or love alone. Joy shared is joy sustained.”
I’m wondering if you could join me in doing two things this week. First, make a list of what gives you joy. And, if you feel you should, please share it with us, the readers of this blog. Second, write down some activities you can do to create ‘collective effervescence’ among others.
Can you please share with our other readers what makes you joyful? You might stir some embers in someone else’s heart. I really look forward to this.