I don’t have photos to go with what I want to write about today (thankfully).  In looking for photos, I stumbled across these macro images of bloodroot flowers, blooming in the early spring, lasting only a few days, and then blowing away in the wind.  This seems like the perfect symbolism for the topic on my mind.

I scanned the names of the dead from the Aurora massacre, hoping not to recognize any of the names, having worked with many colleagues in the vicinity.  I didn’t.  But it broke my heart anyway.

I cannot imagine what makes a person start buying weapons for a war and then go wage that war in a local movie theater.  It’s the most troubling part of the whole thing:  Why?

There have been times when I have said I wanted to kill someone.  What I meant was I wanted to have the power to make the other person regret whatever it was they did that upset me.  Even in my fantasies this is accomplished via a stern and thoroughly brilliant speech.

I ponder this feeling for a moment.  I wonder where the line is between being angry and imagining some sort of reckoning where we are righteous and brave and we smite our enemy versus actually resorting to physical violence?

I also wonder how much the anger and frustration I unleash upon the world creates more anger and frustration in a domino effect.

When I used to ride my bike 26 miles to work and back, if I rode with the expectation that cars were going to run me over and the attitude that I wanted to “kill” them for it, I frequently got honked at, buzzed, and generally terrified by passing cars even though I did not perceive myself to be riding any differently.

When I rode so thoroughly enjoying the ride that I didn’t have any space left for anger, I realized I smiled and waved at drivers whenever they did anything considerate, feeling grateful they were thinking of me.  No one ever honked at me when I rode with this attitude.  I didn’t get buzzed and I wasn’t terrified.

Is it possible we ultimately can prevent killing sprees with something as simple as a smile?

If we can make a connection, can a potential killer see us as real?  That is, see us as they see themselves–intertwined, interdependent, beautiful flesh and blood?  Shouldn’t finding that connection, nourishing it, keeping it alive as long as possible be our top priority no matter where we are, who we’re with, or what we’re doing?

Maybe we can’t stop someone from becoming a killer, but maybe we can at least reduce the number of people who walk around fantasizing about killing people.  And maybe that will lead to more smiles and a little more joy all around.  After all, if I’m going to get gunned down by a homicidal maniac, I’d like to have spent the time I had smiling.


Finding Joy

Shifting gears from focusing on the things I want to do to the things I must do on a Monday causes me to think about joy.  Joy is one of those feelings that took me a long time to distinguish.  I finally decided the main symptom of joy versus run-of-the-mill happiness, amusement, infatuation, or any other emotion that might camouflage itself as joy is that my eyes well up just a little.

My chest also feels like it’s filling with something.  My throat constricts slightly.  The physical symptoms are the same as if I’m about to have a good cry.  But I don’t feel like crying–I’m too busy grinning.

The thing about joy is that it always surprises me.  It’s always the tiny things I so often overlook that suddenly create this overwhelming sense of, well, joy.  There really isn’t a synonym.

When I take Tisen out, his tail wags in time with his foot steps as he prances along like a tiny horse.  The joy of this wag overwhelms me.

When Tisen wiggles his way closer to me just before falling asleep, I smile until I ache.  When Tisen eats his food like he really enjoys it, I nearly do cry.

But it’s not all about Tisen.  The other day, I was walking in the park and saw a small bird perched on top of a light post.  It was back-lit and I couldn’t make it out until I got to the other side of the pole with the sun behind me.  It suddenly burst into the full color of an Eastern Bluebird.  I felt like I’d been let in on a joyful secret.

Sometimes, all it takes is noticing the arrangement of stray branches casting a shadow over a pool of water.  Or a puff of clouds forming a smiley face.  Or a stranger walking by and saying hello with a twinkle in their eyes.

Joy seems to create its own momentum.  After I notice one joyful thing, I suddenly start noticing more.  It’s like getting a glimpse causes me to look for more.  I am reminded of the filter that decides what information to process versus what to ignore.  If you’ve ever bought a new car and suddenly noticed every one on the road, joy is like that.

At the top of the big hang gliding hill yesterday, I stood for just a moment and looked all around.  The grass, the trees, the sky, the mountains.  All there just for the price of noticing.  This is what people mean when they talk about smelling the roses.

Ironically, when I need joy in my life the most, it’s the hardest to find.  I get wrapped up in suffering and suddenly the sunrise isn’t worth noticing, the trees are just trees, and a wagging tail is just a wagging tail.  I wonder what it would be like to be able to see the things that make me smile when I feel the least like smiling?