C.S. Lewis on Happiness (Part 2 of 3)

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C.S. Lewis on Happiness and the Good LifeBecoming a Child

In addition to the medieval castle-like buildings that dominate its skyline, the city of Oxford, England also boasts great walking trails. Lewis would go on these trails for hours at a time, letting his imagination go wild, thinking about things such as talking animals and magical wardrobes. Though Lewis was a serious academic who wrote scholarly works that most today would have trouble comprehending, he preferred reading and writing children’s books because he loved allowing his mind to return to the hope and dreams that he had as a child.

What is Joy?

Now that I have given you a short biography on Lewis, I want to get back to the main topic of this chapter – comparing happiness and joy. The differences in the two words are subtle, but they are worth pointing out.

Lewis defines joy as finding our heart’s deepest longing. Joy is more of a desire than a state of pleasure or emotion. According to Lewis, “[Joy is] an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”[1]

Lewis’s worldview hinges upon the belief that all desires must have an object to satisfy them.  He states:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[2]

Lewis views this “other world,” or Heaven, to be the object that will satisfy our ultimate desire.

Building on Lewis’ ideas, I define joy as a desire that produces sustained happiness to the point where you are compelled to savor it and share it with others. Joy is intense. It produces a burning sensation in our hearts that compels us to act on it. Lewis describes this deep-burning desire when he says, “Joy in my sense has indeed one characteristic…the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.”[3]

When I say, “having a passion for something,” I am speaking of a love associated with this deep sense of joy. My belief is that this joy is produced by experiencing things such as beauty, love, and truth.

Continue to Part 3 on C.S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life >>

C.S. Lewis Happiness

[1] Surprised by Joy, Chapter 1. paragraph 18.

[2] Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 10. “Hope.”

[3] Surprised by Joy, Chapter 1. paragraph 18.

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