The Joy of Life

I just completed a whirlwind trip of London and had very little time to rest and take in the sights. But a meeting cancellation opened up a magical 90 minutes to walk through Hyde Park and enjoy a rare period of London sunshine.

I came upon the glorious sculpture and fountain pictured above, “The Joy of Life” by  T. B. Huxley-Jones (1963).  I became transfixed by the uplifting theme and the sheer exuberance of the artwork.

While I was admiring the fountain, I caught a whiff of pipe tobacco smoke — the same brand used my grandfather, who died almost exactly 10 years ago.  My grandfather was a hard-working plumber who, through his craft, helped transform his hometown of Pittsburgh from a sooty mess of a place to a shiny, modern city always at the top of the “most livable” cities in America.

It could not have been easy work and he sometimes struggled to make ends meet. And yet he never complained and taught me through his example to take pleasures in the simple things that he could afford — a hearty soup, flowers in his garden, a baseball game on the radio. Such a simple life, such a joyful life.

I sat by the fountain and reflected on my friend Gabrielle Laine-Peters. I had known Gabrielle some time through Twitter but met her for the first time this week and learned that she was a woman who had looked death in the face — numerous times — and has overcome incredible hardship to re-gain an infectious spirit of joy in her life. Much of this has come through the global connections of the social web. What an inspiring woman. What a joyful woman.

As I stared into the face of the boy in the statue seeming leaping into the pool I recognized the expression of my little friend Elijah, an inner city child I mentor and help care for.

He is a boy with the odds stacked against him yet can find joy by leaping (never walking!) down steps, turning a rusty railing into a playground, and yes, leaping head-first with joy into a puddle. I learn from him constantly — he can find joy in anything.

To be human is to suffer. And yet, what defines us as individuals is how we can or cannot overcome this unavoidable pain to find meaning and joy in our lives.  Life is hard.  I am constantly thinking about how I can transform and re-frame my personal challenges into experiences of joy.  I’m still learning from these inspiring people.

How about you? Are you making joy a priority in your life?

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  • brad

    thanks mark,

    nice to find a real voice that acknowledges the pain & joys of life. I look forward to learning more @ social media marketing & growing a blog from you.

  • Thanks Brad. Appreciate the comment!

  • Mark:

    A delightful and appropriate post to be reading on Mother’s Day. Thank you

  • You’ll learn tons Brad, but not just about social media marketing and blogging from Mark. I know I have and I’m sure you will too.

  • This touched me deeply. Thank you.

  • Thanks for taking the time to tell me Ray.

  • Thanks Anneliz.

  • Thanks for reading the blog Brad.

  • A walk is really great for reflection. I walk every morning, and I walk long, and without an MP3=player. I get my exercize and get my head right for the day, rain or shine.

  • A very good practice and I wish I had your discipline Saul!

  • I am! I’ve been thinking about the importance of joy a lot lately. It’s becoming a recurring theme. 🙂

  • I love, love, love that you had this opportunity in your busy life to be able to take some time and reflect! For me I like spending time anywhere in Tahoe (so lucky to have it so close), or with my son, but also as someone mentioned below, by taking walks either in the early morning or late afternoon. Or by reading poetry. I think getting outside is key. There is also a wonderful blogger I met online some time ago who spends a lot of time reflecting. You can read her poetry here:

  • Awesome Erin. Good luck on your journey!

  • Thanks for the share Tiffany. I also receive a lot of my spiritual renewal from being outside. I’m fortunate to live near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

  • Joy is a priority in my life, and my life’s Mission is a simple 3 words: To spread joy. This is such a timely post, as I’ve just returned from what I entitled my “Ernest Hemingway writing retreat”…a time of solitude and non-stop writing at a cottage, in isolation. I spent time with wind and waves and my own thoughts. I’m not sure what the fruits of that labour will be, but they are ripening. LOVE this post Mark, and I find that the more I see the beauty in the little things, the more joy I experience and share. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Wow. What a powerful message Kaarina. And I’m jealous of your retreat opportunity. I have fantasized about that myself. I need to make that happen.

  • I found some joy in this article Mark. It was an unexpected and refreshing reminder and just what I needed with my coffee on this cloudy Monday morning. Your mention of that pipe aroma bringing back memories of your grandfather reminded me of a trick I discovered that brings me simple joy.

    I only saw my grandfather a couple of times a year when I was young. But one summer when I was eight years old, I spent three months recuperating from injuries incurred from a tragic car accident. My father was killed in the wreck and my mother was injured badly. So my grandparents home in Winchester, Tennessee was where I was sent to recover from a crushed pelvis after spending a month in the hospital.

    To help me entertain myself, my grandpa rigged up a rod and reel that I could cast across the room and when I could sit up, he would put me in the back seat and take me fishing. He would give me one of his caps to wear and off we would go in his old Chevrolet.

    His car was old and had no air conditioning but in the summer, with the windows down, it was a joy to ride in with him. But what I remember most is this great smell his hat had.

    Everyone in our family tells me I have my Grandpa Charlie’s hair. And to this day, when I put on one of my well-worn hats, I’ll sometimes take a second to breathe in the hat and it takes me back to those summer days in Tennessee. I’ll joke with my wife that “I’ll be right back, I’m going to see grandpa.”

    So, from a few seconds with an old hat to your article this morning, simple joy is all around us. Thanks again for the reminder Mark!

  • And once again, the magical storytelling ability of Mr. Billy Mitchell is on display! Wow, this is so great Billy. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • Mark, fantastic stuff. I sit and meditate at a fountain near my place often!

    I’ve been homeless, arrested, betrayed, lost all my possessions, failed 8 businesses, failed 8 LTRs, and more — but I’m one of the most loving, joyful, positive people around. In fact, I teach positivity over at Ryze, and recently published a post containing an insanely powerful re-framing exercise:

  • I agree with Kaarina, and prioritize periods of solitude. Conventional wisdom says work harder, ancient wisdom says take a break from our crazy world and gain some peace and perspective.

    Guess which bit of wisdom generates huge results 😉

  • Carmen

    I, too, enjoyed this Mark. My Bumpa (paternal grandfather) smoked a pipe too…and on occasion I smell that smell and it takes me back to riding in his truck (in rural Alberta) out to the fields…sometimes stopping at the corner store for a “creamsicle”. For me, farmers fields are fascinating and beautiful…love them from the road and from the sky. Bright green against a blue sky…spectacular!

    I also have been thinking lately about taking the time to enjoy the joy…and also working on putting a twist on things that I haven’t previously found joyful. For instance, dandelions…with the bans on pesticides etc. we have so many more on the boulevards etc. I was looking at them the other day and willed myself to see their beauty (I’ve always found them happy flowers when they are yellow, but when they’ve gone to seed, not so much!)…I was thinking that I can choose to view them in a different light. While I’d still prefer to see violets dotting a lawn, I’m working on elevating the dandelion in my mind!

  • Pretty amazing. You need to write a book!

  • This is so funny. The other day I was looking at a field of dandelions and clover. It was beautiful. I thought to myself that if dandelions were rare, people would pay to see this spectacle! And I had it all to myself. Looks like we have at least the world view in common Carmen!

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