This thought is by no means original to me, but recent events have brought this back to mind. In the human experience, pain and suffering are those that have a leveling effect on (pretty much) every human being on the planet. What I mean by a leveling effect is the capacity of every individual to somehow relate to each other on similar grounds.

When it comes to the evil things that happen in life, even though essentially we can never fully understand another’s pain, we can imagine similar things happening to us and how terrible it is to be in the same situation. For example, when a person cuts his finger, even though I cannot truly experience his pain at the moment, I can still at the very least understand the concept of getting a cut and say, “Ouch! That hurts!” When someone is betrayed, lost a loved one, becomes a victim of violence or crime, we know that we would feel almost exactly as that person feels if the same thing happens to us. We see those who suffer from natural disasters and calamities, and we know to say in our hearts, yes, it could very well happen to me too, prompting us to reach out to them. Indeed, sympathy and empathy are noble gifts to humanity.

I wonder, though, if there is something equivalent to sympathy when it comes to joy. What would be the tool for me to understand when someone is overjoyed because he has fulfilled his life dreams? It would be much easier if his life dreams overlap with the things I like, the values I hold. But if not, it would be close to impossible for me to feel a fraction of the happiness that he’s experiencing. It seems to me that we are much more limited in trying to put ourselves in another’s shoes when it comes to joy and happiness, and I think it’s because there’s much individuality in joy and what can make an individual joyful.

What makes a person happy, thrilled, and fulfilled is distinctly different than the next person. One person likes to mix all his food together, another person likes them all separate. One loves pouring over books, another one loves building things. If a friend loves and gets so much joy out of picking up pebbles, he’d still be my friend, but it’d be hard for me to relate. The things that he enjoys may actually be painful for me. Basically the point is, the things that interest a person, things that can make his face glow when speaking, his passion, life goals, and dreams, define who he is. A person’s idiosyncrasies are part of what makes him him; they make that person weird, quirky, unique, special, and peculiar. Dealing and embracing each other’s quirks and differences is partly what makes life quite amusing.

As hard as it is to relate to people’s joy due to dissimilar interests, what a marvelous thing it is to find company in which we share the same weird things that thrill our hearts. You get excited over the same things, your conversations are energizing, and when one shares an experience, the other can say “Yeaa, I totally know what you’re talking about!!” as opposed to “Huh..? Okay…” There’s resonance, you’re at the same wavelength, your hearts are beating at the same beat. When that happens, it’s definitely worth it to keep those people around for life.

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