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J is for Joy #atozchallenge

When I was studying literature at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, I took the fantasy lit course because The Lord of the Rings was on the reading list, and I love LOTR. I’d read it dozens of times by then, and instead of taking the opportunity to remove the book from the to-be-read list, I read it again.

When you read a book from a literary perspective, the experience is different from when you read it for pleasure. On the one hand, reading it while knowing you have to pick it apart sucks enjoyment from it. On the other hand, it adds fascination and the opportunity to explore ideas and concpets you didn’t consider before.

In this particular read, what struck me was how Tolkien illustrated the dichotomy between joy and sorrow. One of the themes in LOTR is that you can’t have great joy without great sorrow. While that can devolve into a “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” type of discussion, I thought it was an interesting perspective.

What if all you had was joy? Would you stop appreciating it? Would you recognize it? Were we born to learn through suffering?

Part of a pagan wine blessing I think is profound says this:

“To learn you must suffer; to live you must be born; to be born you must die; the beginning, continuation and the end, over and over;”

The learning through suffering part always bothered me. I don’t want to accept that, but that doesn’t make it false.

When I attended Doreen Virtue‘s Angel Therapy Practitioner® course in Hawaii in March of 2008, a comment she made stuck with me. She said (paraphrased): “You can learn from joy as well as you can from sorrow.”

In essence, if I interpreted correctly, she was saying that we don’t need sorrow to learn the life lessons we need to learn.

I explored all this in The Experiencers. My character, Carolyn Fairchild, believes joy can teach you what you need to learn. Yet she has to survive in a world that includes great sorrow. We all do, whether or not we believe sorrow has its place.

What do you think? Must you experience sorrow to learn and grow, or would joy be enough?

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3 Responses

  1. I often think that I’ve had too easy a life to be a successful writer. I find that, when I’m placing a character in a difficult situation, I shy away from making them suffer too much.

  2. Perhaps we just need to learn from all our life experiences. I’m not sure what I learn from toothache, but still.
    Jemima Pett

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