Honolulu Lite


Remembering joy
in a troubled world

As we get older, we learn a lot of stuff but we forget many more important things, like what it's like to experience pure joy.

I'm not talking about run-of-the-mill happiness, like when you suddenly remember it's Friday and you don't have to go to work the next day. Or you find out that someone you don't like very much has been indicted for treason or something. Or you learn that an obscure relative died and left you 300 cats and a condo on Kauai.

That's happiness, that's not joy. And considering the reaming you're going to get from your friends when you dump the cats off at the animal shelter to be "dispatched," it's certainly not pure joy.

I had forgotten what pure joy was. And then I saw it the other day.

There was this little kid, maybe 4 years old. He was hanging out with his dad by the pool at a local club when the old man decides it's time for refreshments. So they go up to the "bather's window" of the bar and the dad orders a soda and gets the kid a plastic glass filled with maraschino cherries and topped with whipped cream. When the kid saw the cherries and whipped cream, his face took on an expression normally associated with people who have seen the image of the Virgin of Guadeloupe.

As he walked, he slowly scooped the whipped cream with one finger into his mouth. He did this deliberately, savoring each tiny taste. And with each dab of whipped cream, the world disappeared around him. Finally, overwhelmed with the utter magnificence of his treat, he simply sat down. Right on the concrete. Right next to a doorway that people came and went from. Right among some patio tables.

It didn't matter. His cherries and whipped cream gave him so much joy that he simply had to sit right there, right then and eat it. He took care to eat it slowly to make it last. And while he did, his little bare feet became rigid, toes splayed in a sort of involuntary partial paralysis that comes when you are indulging in something so incredibly blissful that you can't stand it.

He was in a state of pure joy. And I thought, when was the last time I had experienced such joy? When was the last time something made me so happy that I just wanted to sit down right on the floor, ignoring everyone around me and just indulge in that pleasure.

Of course, adults can't do that. (Anything an adult does with maraschino cherries and whipped cream is best kept behind closed doors.)

But still, we should try to experience true joy in our lives. That kid reminded me that it does exist. We grown-ups just have to work a little harder at finding it. And if we are lucky enough to find it, especially in these times of trouble and terror, we have to be willing to block out everything around us and just savor that joyful moment.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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