As we get closer to crawling out of the morass of COVID-19, I’ve been thinking about joy.
In that process, I’m reminded that there are magical moments in life where, even in the moment, we realize that we are touching greatness.
Most of us have experienced this, and it’s actually been named. People call it being, “in the zone.” Or special forces call it the “green room.” We’re, even for a moment, completely dialed in, time seems to slow down, and you can execute your task perfectly. For me those moments have been rare, but entirely memorable and they are sources of joy even in remembering.
These have been most common in a venue of performance, either athletically or musically, or in public speaking or teaching. I was engaged in a great conversation with a friend about this dynamic and he rightly pointed out that for the “green room” to happen, there are several components.
1. It involves some measure of physicality.
2. It involves practice, rehearsal, or repetitive motion or activity.
3. It involves a public stage of performance, often accompanied by adrenaline.
4. It involves a special sense of awareness and an altered sense of perception.
5. It involves a feeling of power, where even something complicated feels effortless.
6. It is completely in the moment.
7. It is filled with joy and a ridiculous sense of fun.
There is a level of focus, of connectedness, of rightness that is difficult to communicate… but fortunately most people have experienced this at some point in life. Maybe it was the curve ball that didn’t curve, and time slowed down and you clocked it. Maybe it was the three you hit deep in the game and you knew it was in before you let go of the ball. Maybe it was a musical performance where it felt like you had a silly amount of time to place the 64th note just so. Maybe it was the moment of improv and you saw it, and dropped the line, with perfect comic timing. Maybe it was a near miss car accident where you saw everything and did a series of things exactly right to avoid the collision. Maybe it was a first kiss that was better than it had any right to be.
The difference between professionals and talented amateurs or semi-pros, is that professionals (perhaps intuitively) understand the run-up to this process better than the rest of us do. They get enough sleep the night before. They eat the same thing before the game or the concert. They wear the same socks. Many will have a highly regimented pre-game routine that is all about getting into this mental space. They do these things, not as a guarantee to the “green room” but they do everything they can to make it more likely. And somehow it is more likely. What can feel like superstition is actually participating in their activity at the highest level.
Even normal people can see it when this happens. Michael Jordan gets “that look” on his face and buckle up because something amazing is about to happen. Dave Matthews creates this incredible and musical moment and shares it with us. The orchestra fills the room, the conductor is perfect, the musicians just nail it, and the whole room is transported.
My argument is that this is the framework of joy.
Specifically in the idea that joy can be found in the nexus of things fitting together in exactly the right way in our response to a given situation. The good news is that this isn’t just limited to pros, or performance, which perhaps not everyone participates in. But these elements can also be present in the larger context of life, where routine can seem like drudgery and we don’t always see our day to day activity as rehearsals and run-up to greatness. The other piece of good news is that this kind of joy isn’t particularly dependent on external circumstance. Even in chaos, or in tragedy, we can sometimes find the green room to amazing effect. You don’t have to be able to dunk a basketball to find more joy.
Be intentional, with even the little things, as if they were preparation for a major event.
Invest in the things that are most important, both intimately with significant others and friends, but also with cohorts of activity and larger community.
Be in the moment as much as possible. Reflect, yes and plan, for certain… but don’t fall into the trap of always trading yesterday and tomorrow for today. One of most surprising things in the narrative of the gospels is how very present Jesus was, day to day.
Expect great moments to come. I honestly believe that we were created for these things and it is sacred to be conscious of the hope that longs to manifest.
Be vigilant when the great moment arrives. And enjoy it would you? Savor the perfect meal, the great conversation, the unexpected beauty of a sunrise, the run on the beach, the warmth of the fire with loved ones, the aggressive wet nose of a pet, or sharing the simple joy of finally letting your hair down after a hard day’s work.
And as the Bard says,
“Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech.”
(~All's Well that Ends Well, Act 1, Scene 1)
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.