The Inner Struggle

“Does It Spark Joy?” as an effective tool for discrimination.

Some of the sources which I read regularly have commented on the difficulty of giving up access to news, or what passes for “news” these days in virtually every medium and media. This is a particularly troublesome nail which needs some hammering and which is more difficult to deal with than obviously bad things like fighting, or alcoholism, or drugs and other addictions.

Attachments to my opinions and beliefs, are much easier to rationalize as “sensible and right” than are obviously bad behaviors that impact the material world around me. My “model” is focused on the “reality” of what I experience in the world, and it is obviously right, right?

A razor I have used more or less successfully when deciding what material things and possessions are truly important and what things should be consigned to the big blue bin in my back yard has become a sort of mantra for me: As I contemplate the possession in question I ask myself “Does it spark joy?”. Most often the answer is no, or even in fact the complete opposite, it sparks distress for myriad reasons.

I also try, more or less successfully, to apply this razor to my thoughts about our life and times, our culture, our news, our entertainment, our government, our health care system, our justice system, our leaders, our contemporaries, our church. This is especially useful when I start drifting into enumerating all the things that are wrong with whatever the object of my attention happens to be at that moment. Do they (my thoughts) spark joy? If not, why not?

The exercise moves the item from the realm of passion and spontaneity without intent, into acknowledgement of my own culpability in thinking that way … its rarely a pleasant experience. One must be absolutely brutally honest with oneself about the spark. No weaseling to avoid making a decision. If some thing, or idea, is stupid or bad or even evil in its influence it must be identified as such and let the chips fall where they may.

Looked at with private personal honesty it is fairly easy to differentiate between joy, and any other feeling. Once one honestly accepts the lack of joy in a possession, or an idea, or a habit of thought it becomes easier to identify the attachment, and it almost always involves some iteration of my high opinion of myself and my thinking, my model of reality, my centrality in this existence.

Usually, perhaps even always, any identified attachment is something that takes me away from trying to conform to the will of God, from having God at the center of all things, instead of myself … much more comfortable with myself at the center, where I have lived for most of my life. It is also true that not all things that spark joy conform to the will of God, but those sort of joys never last and soon I find myself looking for more, rather like “Chinese Food” as served up in North American restaurants, as opposed to “Chinese” food as one finds in China.

I can’t think of any thing or thought that isn’t effectively clarified by the tool of “Does It Spark Joy?”  Once a thing is identified as joyless it is consigned to the dump, thrown out for good, never to be retrieved. It is pretty effective for material things. Thoughts and habits are another kind of horse altogether, hard to harness and hard to ride herd on and very hard to throw away with any degree of permanence.

I find myself discovering again, and again, in the back of my mental closet, a pile of old shoe boxes containing all the little trash and trinkets of past lives and past modes of thought, past judgements and past sins. I have failed to dispose of these failed thought patterns, rather like Bilbo heading out on his final quest all the while firmly resisting parting with the One Ring of Power.

No matter how hard I try to apply Joe Friday’s rule, I always seem to slide into spin and opinion. And my opinion is often rather low, about rather more things than I am happy with. So months ago, I unhooked from Satellite TV, and all news programs because they were all a near occasion of sin. I simply no longer accept any form of “streaming” infotainment or fake news – which is almost everything which passes for “news” these days.

Not a Luddite by any stretch, I can happily search on a variety of search engines, from a variety of countries and cultures, and follow up leads using my TOR browser or PIA (Private Internet Access), a subscribed proxy service. Different media from different countries and cultures often have quite different takes on events.

As a teenager I subscribed to “Foreign Affairs”, “Pravda”, “Scientific American”, and “National Geographic” and read a number of newspapers found at our local library. I was often surprised at the different picture revealed through each lens about the same events.

While now under a complete “News” blackout, I still can find out what I am interested in finding out, and I can fact check away to my heart’s content, but can be much more discriminating (that must be a “bad” thing these days) than I used to be about what I allow into my head.