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Turning to Joy

By Paul Chaffee


The beating heart of the universe is holy joy.” – Martin Buber

When religion and violence are endlessly discussed, analyzed, and carelessly conflated, it behooves us to take time to notice how joy tends to be a defining element in interfaith and interspiritual relationships. Not just a kum-by-ya sense of shared well being and friendship, but deeper, a ‘holy joy,’ to use Buber’s language, on entering a world where the ‘other’ is treasured rather than feared. Here is a world where you and the other can appreciate the gifts and wisdom in each other and be mutually enriched, an unexpected banquet to enjoy.

This month’s TIO is not about defining ‘interfaith joy.’ Instead it is a collection of stories where enjoying the other is transforming, an inspiration and pleasure. A deep-in-the-belly kind of joy bubbles up in these tales, making them perfect resources for people whose fear is bottling up the joy available to them.

After years in the interfaith vineyard, people almost invariably say that the best part of the vocation has been the deep friendships developed, and more than our usual friendships. The French Catholic novelist George Bernanos wrote, “To find joy in another’s joy, that is the secret of happiness.” What a blessing!