This book. THIS BOOK. Everyone needs to read it. It’s amazing. Just actually amazing. This book speaks to the soul.
The Book of Joy, written by Douglas Abrams as a record of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, explores joy, the cultivation of joy, and the relationship between joy and suffering. I picked it up at the recommendation of one of my professors. As someone who has struggled with happiness, I found this book really resonated with me. There was so much that I read and went “yup, I know how that feels” or “yeah, that roughly sketches a pattern that occurred in my life.” And wonderfully, I related to their suggestions for ways forward, their approaches to generating positivity in a too-often negative world.
I also appreciated that The Book of Joy is not pretentious, as perhaps one might be inclined to fear. As the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu say through Abrams in the prologue, “You don’t need to believe us. Indeed, nothing we say should be taken as an article of faith. We are sharing what two friends, from very different worlds, have witnessed and learned in our long lives.” The Book of Joy does not aspire to tell you how to think or live; it does not claim to have all the answers. It wouldn’t translate very well to an inspirational TED Talk or smartly written blog post or clever YouTube video about 10 Ways You Can Increase Your Happiness TODAY! Rather, The Book of Joy invites you to think for yourself and consider the ideas presented and hopefully to find a better way forward yourself.
So please read this book. But don’t just read it. Read it and contemplate it. Take your time with it. Marvel in it. Slow yourself down with it. It won’t entertain you like the internet will. It won’t kindle passion, anger like the news can. You won’t feel a battle cry erupt within your throat.
But you will find in this book the seeds of a better you, a happier you, a more joyful you. And the seeds of a better us, all of us. The seeds of a better humanity through better humans. The seeds of a more joyful humanity through more joyful humans.
The only remaining question will be what you want: joy or suffering.