A man stands under the highway overpass off Brushcreek Road; feet submerged in the sludgy waters, a backpack draped over one shoulder and a rusty skill saw on the other. Out loud he speaks to what I imagine are his spirit guides, unseen to the modern day, untrained eye, “Which way to paradise?” He points to his left and says “Joy?” and then to his right, “Happiness?”
His back turned to me, not aware of my presence, he waits for a response to his question, which feels genuine, an inquiry I’ve pondered for much of my adult life.
I watch, a subtle smile forms at my lips, as he chooses ‘right’ - towards happiness, and marches on, boots muddy and sodden, seemingly satisfied with his choice.
I walk away from the bridge, thoughts churning the very same question, “Which way to paradise?”
My thoughts move to emotion and I start to feel a tinge of sadness well up in my throat. I notice my eyes begin to water and although I’m alone, I look down at the ground as if to hide my feeling state.
Why am I sad about this?
Why am I trying to shield this expression?
How DO we get to paradise?
What/where is paradise?
Do we need to choose between happiness and joy?
Who has time these days when it feels like we are constantly working jobs just to survive?
What would I choose, joy or happiness?
And why do we think we need to choose between the two?
Where does this belief come from?
Has the world we live in become so unbearable that we feel as though we have to choose?
As if a flood gate burst wide open, this stream of questions rushes through my mind, filters through my brain and lands in my heart. I hesitate in my body for a moment, waiting for the ocean of emotions to settle so I can come back to my steady center.
Why am I so stunned by this experience?
I continued my walk home, softly singing prayers to the surrounding world, mantras for happiness and joy, contemplating the beauty of that man’s chosen path.
What does his happiness look like?
This man, this stranger, struck a chord with me. His very presence, unknowingly to him, orchestrated a symphony of questions I had no idea were playing in the background of my heart and soul. The illusion of harmony changed its tune as I quietly hummed these new notes of inquiry and watched myself spiral into a love song to my Spirit, to his Spirit.
What would you choose, Joy or Happiness?
What does paradise look like for you?