Monday Musings, The Times We Live In, What's Next...
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What if we have it all wrong? Reality and the dislocation of joy

A mentor who is both an astute observer of life and an insightful writer added a comment to my recent post about the scourge of gambling in baseball. It made me stop and think.

What truly disturbs me about sports betting is the dislocation of joy. The joy is supposed to be in watching the game. Monetizing it, as you point out, changes the focus — as if there could be no simple pleasures which are not really about cash.

I’ve written about joy on multiple occasions. But outside of discussions around out-of-socket joints — conversations known colloquially among the AARP set as “organ recitals” — dislocation is not a word I use very often. Yet Deborah found it to be just the right turn of phrase in her comment. Dislocation is defined as a disturbance from a proper, original, or usual place or state. The push to move joy in the game itself towards joy in winning unearned riches could be a poster child for the disturbance of focus from its proper place.

Commercialization is partly to blame for the dislocation of joy onto things and money. We are bombarded by 6,000 to 10,000 commercial advertisements each day. These ads seek to build up envy, dislocating our contentment and joy from what we have and placing it on the newest, shiniest object. Things and money — we are told from a very early age — are what give us joy.

But what we hear from a very early age flies in the face of what our shared experience actually tells us about joy, if we take the time to stop and think.

Another mentor and exceptional writer notes that our language would lead a careful observer to believe that what we see as real is always serious, harsh, and cruel. The words “harsh reality” stand as one word, one idea.

Yet, Frank muses, “what if joy, wonder, and peace are what life is really about?” Can the harshness and bitterness that we too often see as reality be a passing phase? Frank calls on a very personal yet universal memory to make the case for the reality of joy and hope. “All babies are born with the firm belief that joy, wonder, and peace are the norms of life….Babies are born with that understanding of life. And slowly, patiently, the elders of the world teach them that their view is wrong.”

The elders of the world work to dislocate our natural joy in living life and focus it instead on the belief that the acquisition of things and money will provide joy and happiness. But you don’t have to have lived very long to know the truth of the old adage that money can’t buy happiness. We all know, deep down, that road never brings satisfaction. Money can’t buy love or true friends. Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old.

And yet much too often we accept the dislocation of joy as reality.

I’m on a hope-filled campaign to relocate my joy in the living, the doing, the being. In part, my campaign is a reaction against the forces that suggest we will only find happiness in things with a monetary value, see life as a zero-sum game, and then work to divide the world into the haves and have-nots. Joy is a way to support the work that hope demands.

Rebecca Solnit has written,

“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism.  And when you face politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated, and isolated, joy is a fine initial act of insurrection.”

My campaign is a personal act of insurrection.

There are many reasons to relocate the joy that has been too often dislocated by those who benefit from our misery. And yes, I’m with John Green. You don’t necessarily have to deal with pain to get there.

“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”

Have a good week.

More to come…


Image: Mother and son from Pixabay.


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. My friend Jeff Siegler has a blog post on Revitalize or Die that talks about how the Sprawl Economy has sapped the joy from living in community. In a number of ways, he is hitting on similar themes that I raise in this post. We’ve allowed others to decide what we want and how it will be delivered.

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