During the past couple weeks, some conversation partners, friends, and I have been discussing my friend David E. Cooper’s concept of “sober joy” (see his book, Convergence With Nature). I think I want to say, at least for the moment, that sober joy is a yes-saying demeanor or comportment characterized by a general steadiness and also by an openness to higher moods such as joy, ecstasy, and wonderment. If this definition be granted, then we can ask:
what activities would maintain or enhance sober joy?
Before elaborating upon these activities, it would be wise to say what I do not mean. I do not mean to identify sober joy or any of its life-enhancing activities with health, ‘normalcy,’ or happiness (on some narrow construal). I also want to claim that sober joy’s constancy stands in marked contrast to the highs and lows of drug use. Whereas drugs tend to afford one highs but not without jagged turns and precipitous lows, sober joy maintains tranquility and gradually raises one up to the higher states alluded to above.
Let’s consider some activities that maintain or enhance sober joy. Cooking and eating mindfully; strolling and hiking mindfully; biking at a leisurely pace; doing yoga, climbing, practicing the softer martial arts; wondering, contemplating, enjoying leisure time; traveling with an eye to the beauty of ordinary objects; having philosophical conversations with friends of virtues: these are but some activities that either maintain or enhance sober joy.
Activities that neither maintain nor enhance sober joy would include unmindful eating, consuming, strenuous sports (e.g., cage fighting), hurrying, pleasure-seeking, checking one’s cell phone, using a GPS (as opposed to one’s own judgment) to get somewhere, engaging in friendships of pleasure, accumulating excessive wealth, and so on. These activities hint at a life that is not in order.
Sober joy, it could be said in closing, is nothing except living according to nature.