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Joy Vs. Happiness
What do we want, Joy or Happiness?

I was talking to a friend, a Greek friend, and he described happiness as something momentary – winning the lottery, getting a raise, receiving a post, you are happy. On the other hand Joy, he described, is a more general joy of life, of being who you are and where you are. Happiness thus, he continued, depends on outside sources and you are always at the mercy of luck and the (Greek) gods, while Joy you are dependent on yourself.

At first I was surprised as in my understanding of English it was the opposite. But he explained that these words are from Greek origin and that’s their meaning (and an American friend present said it seemed reasonable to her), and it occurred to me that also in French the word for happiness is “Bonheur,” a happy moment, while Joy is “Joie de vivre,” Joy of life.

The topic of momentary happiness vs. a more general one has constantly come up in the How to be happy discussion (post, post, post) but this gives a nice clarification of it. For happiness you are constantly at the mercy of luck and outside events, while for Joy you are dependent only on yourself. 

It is interesting to remember: The joy of sex. Why is sex a joy? Why sex is actually not simply an event which makes us happy, like eating chocolate, or buying new cloth, but a more profound one of: Joy.

How do we become Joyful then?

Which kinds of moments of ecstasy are profound ones of Joy, and which ones are ones of Happiness?
It's a wonderful question; by way of beginning, I looked up the etymologies in English, and "happy" comes from hap "chance, fortune," the same root which gives us haphazard, or happenstance. So in English also, happiness inherently connects to luck. A happy man was a lucky man, a fortunate one.

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate.

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Haply [happily], i.e. by chance he thinks of her, and the whole world changes. That's how to be happy.

Joy apparently comes from the Old French word for jewel, but is connected to something much more active: rejoice, enjoy, etc. Even from this one could paint a picture of happiness as occurring to us, whereas joy is something in which we are active, or at least something which we actively experience. I imagine joy in a deep sense is connected to creativity and to creation, though there's much to think about here.

In response to Solveig Wright
Great finds Solveig!
You mention that joy comes from jewel. Notice that: "Diamonds are forever." That is, jewels are timeless and are a way to feel the relationship is not a momentary pleasure but lasts forever. (Or so goes popular belief.)



Now that's happiness!
In Norman Malcolm's short memoir of Wittgenstein, he describes how W. says, before he died, to tell his friends that he had "had a wonderful life". Which Malcolm found mysterious and very moving. Because W. was often deeply unhappy. 
Books Discussed
Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir
by Norman Malcolm

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This topic has the following siblings:

How to be happy - How to be happy

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Latest Post: December 21, 2010 at 4:15 PM
Number of posts: 29
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