This photo shared was with me by a dear friend and her friends from a recent a trip to Paris. To see the beautiful faces of these women in this moment-in-time gave me a sense of happiness and lightheartedness that I see more and more rarely these days. A moment in time where each of them, no matter what their life stories were to this point, they embraced a moment of absolute joy and pleasure.
Joie de vivre (joy of living) first brought forth as a French phrase in the late 17th century by François Fénelon (6 August 1651 – 7 January 1715), was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer. It was later brought further into more casual speech and writing by other writers of the time and refers to a great love of life...
It "can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do… And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life, a Weltanschauung. Robert's Dictionnaire says joie is sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience, that is, involves one's whole being." (excerpt from Wikipedia)
The joy of living is something that seems to elude so many modern humans, especially those inhabiting the western hemispheres of the globe. Where money, possessions, time and social structures tend to overpower the more subtle moments of life's simple joys... simplicity itself. My discovering over the past few years in The Do Less Project that joy is always within arms reach of a smile, a tear, a kind word, and even a hug from a someone who cares. We have the capacity within each moment to seek out, find and embrace joie de vivre in so many ways. But do we do that? Can we do that? Or have we lost the ways and means of which to reconnect with our own joie?
Where we are distracted by shiny new objects, or numbers of likes on social media, promises of more money or greater prestige in our jobs... we may have momentarily lost our human right to feel joyful, to feel pleasure in the simple things in everyday life. Where marriages or long-term relationships are battered with the mundaneness of daily tasks and habits. Where our jobs no longer challenge and provoke us to expand our minds. Where families take for granted the longstanding heritages of moving through hardships and times of surviving in a collective of blood-ties and tribes through a harsh world. Where do we reconnect with the joy of living in each, and all, of these experiences?
Wisdom has come to us from many sages of our time in the personification of the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Wayne Dyer, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Louise Hay, just to name a few. To view their lives and how we only knew them from the perspective of a few sources, and not necessarily from direct connection, we have created images of their lives and how they lived. Their lives seemed to be guided by not needing accolades of "likes" in social media, they did not need to have the fancy, glittery objects of the latest technology. They seemed to offer the world their daily practices of simplicity and kindness. Offering to those less fortunate, a sense of belonging, pride and hope in just being one human who cares for another. Their smiles and the light in their eyes exuded a deep sense of joie de vivre even though they, many times in their lives, were looked down upon or experienced the harshness of life. Forced, at times, into boxes where they were told to conform to the whims and dogmas of those more powerful or the whims of society and culture seeking more control and power, they broke free and stepped out of the boxes of control and domination.
There is the spark in each of us that can connect with this wisdom of so many beautiful humans before us, and this very small effort to share the joie de vivre for ourselves and others. It can be effortless and sometimes even a little scary in the midst of turmoil and hardship. It is, what I believe, our saving grace in times of disaster and need for survival. Especially in times when we are suppressed and oppressed by individuals or groups who hold greater power and dominance and who try to put us in boxes we do not wish to fit into. Take a moment, a do less moment, to remember this and to practice this. Even if we don't have a bottle of wine, or a bunch of life long friends to spur us on, we can invite and evoke joie de vive in every moment of our existence... we just need to step out, be brave and...
... feel the life outside of the box!