“Joy for human beings lies in proper human work. And proper human work consists in: acts of kindness to other human beings, disdain for the stirrings of the senses, identifying trustworthy impressions, and contemplating the natural order and all that happens in keeping with it.”MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 8.26
Stoics have a different definition of joy. It doesn’t mean the throw-your-hands-in-the-air and freak out type of joy. It doesn’t mean cackling with your friends over a bottle of wine. There’s nothing wrong with those expressions of happiness, of course! For the stoic philosopher, however, the meaning of joy is a little more elusive.
Here’s how to find joy, according to Marcus: it comes from doing what you were intended to do, what you were built for. There is a specific purpose that humans were designed for, and it includes all the nice things mentioned in the quote above from The Daily Stoic today: being nice to others, staying calm, examining your thoughts and actions, and respecting the natural world. That’s not a comprehensive list of course, but it’s a good starting place.
Marcus also says that we have a higher purpose to work together — an obligation to connect and partner with other humans in the pursuit of a common good.
When you pursue this ‘higher purpose’ by working with other people as you were designed to do, that’s how you’ll find that deeper joy. Seneca calls it ‘real joy’ and describes it in rather serious terms. But it’s more substantive and longer-lasting than the type of fleeting emotions we normally associate with the word joy. I hope that you find it!