Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Collective Joy

I was just in the shower and for some unknown reason a recent memory popped into my head. One that made me laugh out loud and filled me up entirely with pure, effervescent joy.

I was remembering a few months ago when my husband and I accompanied our son on his football team's trip to Disneyworld. It was the very end of the trip and we were all waiting at the resort for the buses to come and take us to the airport to fly home.  People were hot, people were tired, and people were maybe a little bit grumpy that the vacation was over.  Happiness-infused Disney employee to the rescue.  Seeing all of these boys and their families sitting around with unhappy faces, she put on some line dance music and invited everyone up to dance.  At first only a few boys got up, but as the song progressed, more and more of the team jumped in, and before long everyone was smiling and laughing and not put out at all as a result of the wait.  She kept playing song after song and they kept dancing, dance after dance. If a boy didn't know the steps, a buddy took him aside and broke it down until he got it.  When a new song started, you could hear whoops of excitement and cries of "This one's my favorite!" A crowd gathered to watch and you could see the absolute delight on the people's faces as they watched or filmed 30 to 40 giant teenaged football players clapping, twirling, kicking, stomping, and laughing as they performed these dances together.  The whole scene brought as much joy to the spectators as it did to the participants.  It is one of those special memories that I will keep tucked away in my heart as one of those perfect moments where you step back and time stops for a moment as you take in the magic of what is going on around you.  Unplanned, unrehearsed, just human beings sharing an experience of collective joy.  There's really nothing else like it.

It's the same feeling you can get when you're at a professional baseball game. You're an individual, sitting in your own seat, watching, talking, eating, thinking about the traffic on the way home, etc.  All of a sudden, a player hits a home run.  Instantaneously tens of thousands of people, including yourself, simultaneously rise to their feet, raise their arms in the air, and cheer wildly.  For those few moments everyone is transported to another plane together, which is what makes it so magical and spiritually fulfilling.

Why does this happen? I think it's because it's human nature to want to belong to part of something bigger than own individual selves.  It's why people who may have extremely differing political and religious views stand together as Americans when the national anthem is played.  It's also why, I believe fraternities, sororities, clubs, and organizations exist.  (It's also unfortunately why cults are so appealing to some people, and how hate groups gain power.  People want to belong to something, and often times the stronger and more effusive the message, the better.)

I have not studied anthropology, so I have no scientific basis for why most humans and/or animals have a pack-like mentality, but I would assume it goes back to the survivalist concept of there being safety from predators in numbers.  And for anyone who has ever eaten a piece of their own birthday cake alone, I believe this quote rings true:

"Joy multiplies when it is shared among friends, but grief diminishes with every division. That is life." - R.A. Salvatore

This is why families gather to share in the collective joy of weddings and births, and also why they gather to share in the grief of funerals.  This is why when something wonderful happens (an engagement, a job promotion, a pregnancy or adoption) people share them through announcements and usually have parties to celebrate them.  There is something truly precious about members of the human race coming together to encourage and congratulate one another, and that coming together takes the event or occurrence to a higher, more exciting, and happier level.

I think we need more collective joy experiences in our lives.  Everyone is so divisive right now with the upcoming election, and because the of the saturation and infiltration of social media on our lives, there is a lot more time spent focusing on our differences (and proclaiming them at every chance) than on our similarities.  A lot LESS coming together overall, and it's the coming together part of most experiences that make them so much more fun and enjoyable.

Why are flash mobs so popular - both to the participants and to the passersby who film them and post them later? Because it is a bunch of individuals coming together to do something fun TOGETHER. I will freely admit that I've watched the giant Oprah flash mob to the Black Eyes Peas multiple times and it brings tears to my eyes every single time.  People coming together - to dance, to worship, to play, to sing, to walk or run for a cause, to witness a sporting event, to celebrate, to learn, and to create, can be a very powerful thing in our lives.  And it elevates the joy often higher than we could have imagined.

So I encourage you all, for your next birthday, have a party or at least a get-together.  Invite your neighbors over for a potluck the day after Halloween and exchange your leftover candy.  Go to a game for your local triple or double A baseball team and cheer along with a bunch of strangers whom you would never meet otherwise.  Or join one of thousands of MeetUp groups to share some collective creativity doing something you're passionate about.  As has been said, both "No man is an island" and "It takes a village."  We all need help from others at times, but even more than that, when we share our joys and sorrows its makes them both more joyful and easier to bear.

Last quote: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade...and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka and have a party." - Ron White

Even though I don't drink alcohol, the sentiment rings true.  In difficult times, try to surround yourself with others for support. In happy times, try to surround yourself with people who can be happy with you.  Loneliness is not an option for any of us, unless we choose it.  SHARE YOURSELF with others.  Actively participate in collective joy, and you'll end up with gleeful memories that can start your day off with smiles and unabashed laughter in the shower. :)

1 comment:

  1. Rach, have you seen this video from this TEDTalk? It validates so much of what you're saying here