May 4th, 2009

Intentionality and Spontaneity

This Thursday is the annual performance of the Beit Am Reader's Theater, which this year I co-wrote and will be reading in. I just got an email from my co-writer, who is also narrating and directing, about one of the sketches he wrote. In “The Laws Of Fitness” he talks about the ages-old issues of not eating milk with meat, and concludes that the main purpose of following this difficult rule was intentionality – of making us *aware* of what we eat, forcing us to think about it.

I was not raised Orthodox; I had cheeseburgers as a kid, if no cat to LOL at them. But I was raised by an ex-Orthodox Jew, and intentionality was a major part of that. Joy was not; I don't think I saw him laugh more than a dozen times before my youngest sibling moved out. Dad had been in training all his life to be a tzaddik (the stereotypical Wise Elder), and has been enjoying that role wonderfully since his retirement.

Is intentionality a joy-killer, or was my father's experience coincidental? As with many conundra, I think the answer is “Yes.” I don't think spontaneity is a *systemic* requirement for joy, but I do suspect that most joy arises spontaneously, and that it's easier for most people to get joy when they find a bit of freedom in their lives. My father lived in a self-built prison until he retired, and found his joy upon releasing himself. I have more joy at age 52 than he did, in part because I've built *fewer* bars for myself. . But that's not the only reason. And I may not have as *much* joy at 65 as he did, though I'm not going to get into debating the future here.

I'm trying to zero in on the present, and what I should do now. I've long explored the future to the best of my ability and spent most of my life living there; the other data I can achieve comes from history. Data from now, of course, consists of the sight of my monitor, the feel of my keyboard, and of my ass upon the seat. Building joy seems to be the best thing for me to be doing. *Can* I do that intentionally, or can I only build joy by letting go?

You of course can't answer my questions, though the data collective-you provide me from your own experience has in the past been coherent and valuable. If you do me the favor of assuming all my questions are meant literally (as they are) and answer them, you may be able to prove to me that joy can be generically achieved intentionally. Which still doesn't answer if I can do it that way, but as I”m sure if it can be done I can do it, the indirect data is very valuable to me.

May I have the courtesy of your thoughts?