2014-01-17

The Real Difference Between "Happiness" And "Joy"

In a recent Huffington Post blog article, one Amy Chan draws a distinction between "happiness" and "joy."
Instead of chasing pleasure, I think it's important we start thinking about how we can build joy. Joy is something that is not dependent on one person or thing. Joy is lasting, it is an energy. It is a sense of peace, which does not disappear even if you lose your job, your money and your material things. It is a baseline of contentment, of calm, of gratitude, of empowerment, fulfillment and love. By no means am I saying to abstain from the things that provide pleasure; rather, I suggest you understand the difference, so you don't get caught up in a insatiable appetite of pleasure seeking. 
When we are not conscious of the difference between pleasure and joy, we live in a "happiness" bubble. Our day to day is filled with "stuff" -- meetings, deals, social media, hustle, vices, and so forth. We don't allow ourselves a moment to be still -- to be "bored." Because in the moment where there is no noise, we face having to be with our self, and often, that moment makes us realize how lonely and unfulfilled we really are.
Why differentiate? It isn't really even a question of semantics, since "happiness" and "joy" are perfectly synonymous when most people use them in regular conversation. One would only choose to draw a distinction if one were going somewhere with it. Where does Chan choose to go?
Consequently, we are seeing a generation becoming more disconnected, unfulfilled and distracted than ever before. And they have no idea why because there are no quiet moments left in order to reflect, and ask the self those hard questions, let alone the time to discover the answer. 
Being alone in this city has given me the time and space to contemplate this. In a sense, my bubble burst. I'm recognizing the unhealthy habits I've created to distract myself from being still. Heck, I can't even bear waiting at a stoplight without the urge to check Instagram.
The title of Chan's article is "You're Not Happy, You're Distracted." Chan makes a good argument for the fact that Chan herself is not happy, but rather distracted. To the extent that a reader identifies with Chan's article, I can't raise any objections. If that's how you feel, then that's how you feel.

I can't help but contrast this with last night's post at David Friedman's blog:
The Internet provides a wonderful tool for that approach, exemplified by what I have been doing this week. My main project is the third edition of my first book. From time to time, when I get bored with that, I take a look at facebook, where I am likely to be involved in one interesting conversation or another, or one of the surviving Usenet groups I still post to. I recently finished my grading for last semester, but until I did I could always spend a little time rethinking the question of whether a marginal student deserved a pass or a no pass. I have a search string bookmarked on Firefox to find anyone mentioning me in the past 24 hours, in case something is said that I want to respond to. And if all else fails, I can always spend fifteen minutes on the auction house in World of Warcraft in my running war with the local gemstone would be monopolist or on the Timeless Isle doing a daily for a few extra valor points.

Then back to work.
Chan and Friedman are "distracted" in more or less the same way. One of them finds this kind of distraction a blessing, while the other finds it a curse.

From this, I conclude that happiness is more about how we view our situation than it is about what our situation actually is.