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Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee Read Online (FREE)

Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

Read Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee full novel online for free here.

INTRODUCTION

 

I stood in front of a panel of professors, a full swarm of butterflies in my stomach. As they eyed the small collection of objects on display behind me—a starfish-shaped lamp, a set of round-bottomed teacups, and a trio of stools fashioned from layers of colored foam—their faces were stern, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d made a mistake in leaving a promising career in branding to go back to graduate school in design. Then, after a long silence, one professor broke the ice. “Your work gives me a feeling of joy,” he said. The others nodded.

Suddenly, they were all smiling. I felt a wave of relief. I had passed my first review in the industrial design program at Pratt Institute. But my relief soon gave way to confusion. Joy was a feeling, ephemeral and elusive. It wasn’t something we could see or touch. How, then, could such simple objects—a cup, a lamp, a stool—elicit joy? I tried to get the professors to explain, but they hemmed and hawed as they gestured with their hands. “They just do,” they said. I thanked them, but as I packed up my things for the summer, I couldn’t stop thinking about this question.

How do tangible things create an intangible feeling of joy?

At first, the answer seemed unequivocal: They don’t. Sure, there’s a certain pleasure in material things, but I’d always been led to believe that this is superficial and short-lived, not a meaningful source of joy. In all the books on happiness that I’d consulted over the years, no one had ever suggested that joy might be hiding inside my closet or kitchen cabinets. Instead, countless experts agree that the kind of joy that matters is not around us but in us. This perspective has roots in ancient philosophical traditions. The teachings of Buddha, for example, advise that happiness comes only from letting go of our attachments to worldly things, while in ancient Greece the Stoic philosophers offered a similar prescription, rooted in self-denial and rigorous control over one’s thoughts. Modern psychology likewise embraces this inward lens, suggesting that the way to a happy life is to change how we look at the world and our place in it. From mantras and meditation to therapy and habit change, true joy is an exercise of mind over matter, not matter over mind.

Yet in the weeks and months that followed my review, I noticed many moments when people seemed to find real joy in the material world. Gazing at a favorite painting in an art museum or making a sandcastle at the beach, people smiled and laughed, lost in the moment. They smiled, too, at the peachy light of the sunset and at the shaggy dog with the yellow galoshes. And not only did people seem to find joy in the world around them, but many also put a lot of effort into making their immediate environment more delightful. They tended rose gardens, put candles on birthday cakes, and hung lights for the holidays. Why would people do these things if they had no real effect on their happiness?