Boats, cars, trips, music, toys, sex, addictions, drugs, anger, laziness, sleep, electronics and technology...too name just a few. My personal favorites tend to revolve around food and technology. I consume, always looking forward to the next delicious meal or awesome video game with the feeling that life will just be soooo wonderful once that moment arrives. But what typically happens as soon as that moment is passed I move on looking for the next tasty bite or fun gadget. These keys open doors to hallways that lead to a few promising looking doors that when open lead to perpetually more hallways and more doors...man I'm a slow learner.
The golden, sparkly key that opens the door to a full, happy and present life is so simple...maybe too simple. The shepherd of Nazareth said it best in Matthew 22, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind...Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." What, that's it!? You betcha. The golden rule=the golden key. And although Jesus may be the one we are the most familiar with, wise men throughout the ages have echoed this idea:
Buddhism: "a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353
Confucianism: "Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence." Mencius VII.A.4
Hinduism: "This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you."
Islam: "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths.
Judaism: "...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Leviticus 19:18
Native American Spirituality: "All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really one." Black Elk
Taoism: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss."
Sufism: "The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven't the will to gladden someone's heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone's heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this."
(Bold added for emphasis to my new found faves)
And this is just a portion of the truth found from the world's wisdom. (Link for even more good ones) Humanity has known for centuries and centuries that this key exists and I am confident that certain enlightened individuals of every generation have lived worthy of this principle. Yet where most may dabble in true joy we still fall short cumulatively. Why? You may have noticed that most of these verses reflected only half of what Jesus spoke of...loving our neighbors. But what about loving God?
Am I saying that atheists and agnostics can only at best experience joy by half? Not at all! For those that do believe in deity what does it actually mean to love with your heart, soul and mind? Those that have modeled this principle best for me have had God as a paramount priority in their lives...where all things reflect Him/Her. People, nature, the sunset, the woods, a child's laugh...even suffering. I believe the underlying principle at work is finding something greater and more important than self and dedicating your life to it.
This is where we get hung up. In my experience it is just too easy to fall back on me, not necessarily in a selfish but rather a self involved kind of way. Yet we must train our minds instead to fall back on ennobling things that resonate with who we are. God, scientific truth, equality, freedom, peace, healing, ending poverty, climate change, ending slavery, combating hatred and ignorance...the possibilities are endless. Yet in putting God or some other idea that is a force for good in this world above our own self interests we can totally transform our perspective from self involvement to seeing how we are all connected. Your joy is mine as is your suffering, successes, failures and heartbreaks. In those moments and days when reach this high standard we taste the key to happiness and eternal life.