Hoist by My Own Petard

Petard” is such a juicy word. Medieval bomb, you know — one of those things they tossed out and kept low afterward so as to avoid catching the rebound.

My petard was Joy. Came back to me in a tag from Heather, and since I sent the damned thing out the first time, it would be low of me not to step up when hit by the shrapnel and bleed with the rest. I had about fifty-five entries that came back with the word “joy” in them. A couple of them were quotes, including this one, which is in my random quotes file, and which shows up in that little quote box from time to time:

Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation. — André Gide

Some instances were encased in snippets that I’d written, so they don’t count. Some were facetious, but not as many as I’d feared. One was a tiny little poem that I still think is pretty good, called Epitaph of a Love — but again, that doesn’t count — it was a piece of character study, and not a personal poem.

The remainder were musings on the joy I find in writing, on little bits and pieces of personal sunlight, problems that, having been corrected, left me filled with happiness, exercise routines I’m succeeding at … little things. The same things that give other people joy.

But the one entry that actually wins my vote for further explanation is the post that started this. Because you don’t know why I wrote it.

I started out intending to be funny with my tag, to have my victims search for the word “pain” on their weblogs. I didn’t think it would be all that common a word — I mean, how often to people actually experience pain?

Just to give myself a rough estimate, I Googled myself. This weblog has 861 Googled links to “Pain”.

861.

That’s ludicrous. I thought, damn, I’ve had some challenges, and I’ve had my moments with migraines, but come on here.

Pain – 861

I looked up Hurt – 63.
Grief – 8
Agony – 8
Sorrow – 2
Misery – 2
Sad – 32
Sadness – 3
Unhappy – 8
Unhappiness – 5
—————–
992

992 links back to downer-ness.

Vastly irritated with myself, I thought, all right — maybe there are nearly a thousand mentions of joy and happiness and such, too.

Joy – 54
Cheer – 13
Happiness – 41
Exuberance – 0
Elation – 5
Wonder – 51
Delight – 13
Ecstacy – 0
Rejoicing – 2
Satisfaction – 19
———————-
198

16.6% of the entries I surveyed. [198 divided by (992+198)] Pain and gloom took 83.3% of the surveyed terrain. As of right now, I have 2072 total entries in this weblog. Assuming only one hit per entry (which is surely a false assumption, but I don’t have time to go through entry by entry and hand-count), some form of pain is present in 47.8% of all entries here. Some form of joy? A meager 9.5% of all entries. And I didn’t even peek into Anger and its family. Or Betrayal. Or Stress and kin. I ran through a simple happy vs. sad test, and my weblog failed miserably.

And I’m an optimist.

Right. I checked a few other weblogs. The stats weren’t all that different from mine. Well, by comparison, most of the time it was clear I was an optimist, actually. But negative strongly outweighed positive throughout.

Norman Vincent Peale is rolling in his grave.

My life is a testament to the value of his theories about positive thinking and positive action. I’m an example of the American Dream — I started poor, I made do without money or a pricey education, I worked like hell for what I wanted and believed in myself, and I achieved my dreams.

And 16.6% positive focus was the best I could do? No, because my life is more than 17% good. That’s nowhere near representative of me, or my life.

That’s my story. That’s where this tag came from.

If you want to take this challenge yourself, and look at your weblog from a different perspective, you may consider yourself tagged. Here are the rules.

If you decide to answer this challenge, feel free to post the link to your entry below. And of course, you should still tag folks. Spread joy, you know.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

4 comments… add one
  • Jim Oct 16, 2005 @ 15:02

    I’m reminded of Spider Robinson’s Law of Conservation of Joy and Pain, and his dictim that “shared pain is lessened, shared joy increased). Perhaps it’s not surprising how this worked out in retrospect.

    Sharing joy. A not so random act of kindness.

  • pureandsimple Oct 16, 2005 @ 14:33

    Hi Holly! As I’ve said before I am so embarrassed to have dropped that whinin post on you the other day. Anyway I should tell you that post made me think and take a look at my situation from the outside for a few days, and guess what? It’s pretty close to fantastic! Work still sucks but at least I got a job, and about 1000 other things to be really happy and greatful for.
    Then, just a few days later I read this entry from you, saying pretty much what I’ve been thinking about. I feel a good deal better about everything than that day and the only thing that has changed is my way of thinking!

  • valerie Oct 16, 2005 @ 13:09

    Holly, I saw this posted on your site several days ago, and sure enough, it didn’t take that long to tag me. I was astonished–no, make that embarassed–that I had never once used the word joy in 8 1/2 months of blogging. Not once. And yes, I consider myself optimistic, and I certainly have MUCH to be find joy in. Thank you so much for the heads’ up. http://invalslittleworld.blogspot.com/2005/10/joy-another-tag.html#comments

    Valerie

  • PolarBear Oct 16, 2005 @ 10:53

    Personal pain is more common than we tend to acknowledge. That’s why this exercise is so interesting. We THINK we’re not talking about it, but, clearly, we are. Do we take the little joys for granted? Or do we not credit them for the joyful experience they are? This is one of the more thought-provoking memes I’ve seen, and, you’ll note, I didn’t log it under Silly Stuff like I usually do for these things. Thanks for starting it.

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