To believe that one does not have biases or assumptions when one writes any kind of work denotes an ignorance of one’s own experience. It’s a given that this essay will be biased; all essays are biased in some way. But to let you, the reader, understand right at the beginning what those biases are seems only fair and forthright. The same goes for assumptions. Therefore, let us begin.
My biases are as follows:
- I was raised in the Christian tradition and therefore look at everything through a Christian lens. No matter how hard I try, I cannot escape this bias as it is my primary starting point for looking at any spiritual or religious matter. In fact, it was while my mom was attending Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX that my love affair with religious and spiritual issues began. Therefore, Christianity is my most basic bias.
- Along the same lines, I am also a religious mystic. Webster’s Dictionary defines mysticism as “the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight).” For me this means that instead of looking at religious/spiritual topics from an outer (i.e. the world and more specifically, one’s immediate community) to an inner (i.e. within one’s self) perspective (as do most religious adherents), I look at religious/spiritual topics from an inner to outer perspective.
- My education has been as a scientist, specifically a chemist. I tend to look at spiritual issues through a scientific lens as well. While this may seem contradictory to the last bias, it really isn’t; I see religious/spiritual issues as intuitive and reasoned at the same time. As a result, I tend to treat my beliefs and my writings as working hypotheses that come from my own spiritual development. These hypotheses can therefore be modified or even changed depending on the strength of outside arguments and how those arguments resound with my inner spirituality. This is, of course, NOT to say that I am not passionate about my current beliefs. I just know that my current beliefs are not the end-all, be-all of all things.
- I am a teacher. I use every opportunity I can to try and relate ideas, as I understand them, in some didactic way. It is something that comes very naturally to me and sometimes is to my detriment because teaching assumes expertise in the subject being discussed. As I said before, although I may have some expertise in this field, I am not an expert. I think only someone who is truly enlightened is an expert in the field. And I am not the Dalai Lama. So for the purposes of this essay, I am trying desperately not to allow my teaching self to interfere. But I make no promises.
- I am an extrovert. In every sense of the word. One of my greatest joys is to converse with people about spiritual matters. Thus, I am writing this essay in a conversational tone because I truly believe that I am conversing with you, the reader. I believe that conversation allows us to form ideas, explain perspectives, and draw insights.
- I am a determined optimist. My viewpoint of all things spiritual and religious comes from a foundational belief that humans are inherently good and are capable of living in joy. Thus, the title of this essay states its aim as well. Not only do I truly believe that we can all find eternal joy in our lives but I also believe eternal joy is already within us. All we need to do is realize it.
My assumptions are as follows:
- I am assuming that this essay will be a conversation about living in joy, not a biography. I am not going in depth into each of the historical figures’ life stories as I believe it detracts from the intention of this essay. Likewise, I will not describe them from a religious viewpoint that stems from the tradition each historical figure founded or enhanced. I believe religious viewpoint is an entirely personal interpretation of corporate ideas and thoughts. Since we live within our own religious traditions, whether that tradition is imposed by societal or personal constraints, our interpretation changes regularly on a day-to-day basis. In other words, for the millions of Christians living in the world today, there are millions of religious viewpoints that differ slightly and that are changing rapidly. To try and capture one of these or a conglomerate of them in an essay is to lessen their value; they are already archaic by the time they have been written down. In short, this essay is neither a narrative of the historical figures’ lives nor a corporate religious interpretation of their thoughts.
- I am assuming that you are open to the possibility of learning more about your own spirituality. This essay is not intended to tell you “how to” live in joy (i.e. this is not “An Idiot’s Guide to Living in Joy”). It is intended to relate my perception of how others have lived in joy and to spark the conversation within your heart as to how you might start or continue to live your life in joy. To that end, I have included an extensive bibliography at the end of the essay, citing not only books that I have cited or used as references, but also books that I have found helpful in determining my own life in joy.
- I am assuming you will take the information as I offer it – with thoughtful skepticism. I am not the resident expert in this field and do not have all the answers. The primary sources I am using to describe the figures in this essay are often descriptive accounts (i.e. The Bible). In some cases, such as for Krishna, my primary source is an epic poem (The Bhagavad Gita). Therefore, this essay is not the definitive work on these figures nor is it the definitive work on spirituality or living in joy. It is only a conversation starting point.