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Is Joy Futile?

Updated on May 27, 2013

Is Joy Futile?

We as people have a strong self-serving instinct, sometimes we will neglect our needs in order to care for others. Do you think joy is futile? And our main purpose in life is to take care of the others? Is that what makes us happy?

You need to select the results that make you happy, then there's no need to question the futility every time you do them.

The joy of taking care of others
The joy of taking care of others

The Joy of Giving

Although we humans have a strong self-serving instinct, there can be time when we wouldn't bother to do something for ourselves, but the impulse to care for another means we'd willingly do it for them.

For example, some days I'd quite happily forgo a home-cooked dinner in favour of something quick and easy. However, I find dishing up a sumptuous meal to my family quite satisfying, so doing it for them can be more of a motivation.

But once the meal is over, was a futile exercise? The food is gone and the tribe will be hungry again in a matter of hours, so what was the point?

Well, there may be no tangible evidence of my efforts, but caring for others and enjoying myself are also valid results of my time. So, not only are my family we-fed (result), they feel cared for (result) and I spend a happy hour doing something I enjoy (result!).

It's possible, though, that the frequency and repetition of having to provide this service dilutes/obliterates any inherent joy. But if it falls to you to fulfill these tasks, you may as well look for ways to enjoy them. One way to do this is to focus on each event in isolation, rather than remembering all the times past it had to be done. Once you get past the psychological baggage, you may be surprised how many occasions you find enjoyment in your schedule. (No, honestly!)

Just because a job is supposedly futile, that doesn't mean it can't be satisfying - if you open yourself up this possibility. Performing a service for others has value in and of itself - regardless of the end result. There is, or at least, there can be enjoyment in giving or caring or providing a service, It is rewarding, i.e you get a reward. That sounds like a result to me.

Varying Degrees of Loathing

Mother and daughter
Mother and daughter

Do you absolutely detest every single chore? Aren't there some that you don'y actually mind too much, or even, dare i say it ... enjoy? If you answer no, feel free to skip this bit, but do think carefully first.

To give you a personal example - I am the first to admit that I am as far from naturally domestic as it is possible to be, but even I find a strange pleasure in cleaning windows. Maybe it is the transformation from grubby panes of shame to a sparkling, diamond shine to be proud of. Or perhaps it's my homemade squirty-bottle concoction of vinegar and water, or the satisfying streak-free buffing with a paper towel.

Whatever the reason, I find it an effective, efficient and relatively easy route to feeling like a competent homemaker (at least, until a dust bunny scuttles past me...). However, this admission doesn't mean that I live to clean windows. I don't. But when even I have to admit that they need doing, I console myself with the thought that it's not my least favorite job.

So ponder your routine and try to rediscover any potential areas of enjoyment. It may be that, at least in some cases, you don't begrudge the work, as such, it is just your 'issues' that take the shine off any joy.

Resenting every job is exhausting, so if you must focus on how much you loathe them, at lease loathe them by degrees.

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Treading Water

Cleaning your vintage home
Cleaning your vintage home

OK, so logic suggests that there's no point doing housework. It will only be undone and/or need doing again. However, life is not merely about efficiencies. Do you want to exist logically or live happily? There is one major reason to bother with seemingly futile maintenance: the alternative. Avoiding squalor, illness, chaos, stress and misery are all worthwhile reasons for an element of effort.

'What is important in life is life, and not the result of life,' Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you called a half on housework, the dust, mess and grime will carry on regardless. So you would, eventually, be swallowed up by deterioration and neglect. To maintain ourselves, our families and our home may not be seen as a progression, as such, but it is certainly an achievement. Our lives are better for the effort - so technically, that's an improvement of sorts.

In keep on top of the domestic schedule, we may not be advancing, but at least we are not being dragged down either. Think of it as treading water, it might not get you anywhere, but if you stop - you are sunk!

Pleasure Seeker

pleasure seeker
pleasure seeker

Beyond basic requirements for health and sanity, the sole point of doing some jobs is that you feel better when they're done logic or not.

Let's just examine that you feel better. So if it makes you feel better, it is absolutely worthwhile! What is life about, if not to feel good? If you have discovered a technique to doing that - why would you not do it?

You may not particularly enjoy the effort but focus on how much you enjoy the result. Most things worth having come with a price of some sort - and usually the sweeter for it. So if getting certain jobs done makes you feel better that if you left them - what are you waiting for ?

It takes patience to appreciate domestic bliss, volatile spirits prefer unhappiness - George Santayana

Of course, you get to decide which prices you are willing to pay - it is a personal thing. For example, I could go on at length on the futility of the washing-up (and quite often do...) but there is no denying the satisfaction I feel when my kitchen is spotless, compared to the utter desolation of it being a mess.

So select the results that make you smile. Decide once and for all that the outcome is worth the effort, then there's no need to question the futility every time you do them. This will release all that mental angst, wondering if you are wasting your life. Then you can just get on with those tasks, knowing that they are worth doing, simply because they are worthwhile for you.

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    • jvermilion profile image


      5 years ago

      NOBODY can take away joy from you, unless you allow them to!


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