Henri Matisse, Le bonheur de vivre (The Joy of Life) 1906
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Which Came First: Joy or Desire?

Listening to Bach's Joy of Man's Desiring
on the radio, I've been wondering
Which came first— joy or desire?

Desire makes an acorn grow to an oak,
desire takes a seed along to be a fruit,
and a point breakes out into a universe.

Joy comes when our team wins a championship,
when we get into the college of our choice,
when life-long projects are completed at last.

Buddha says "Life is suffering, which comes
from cravings"— so eliminate desires
to experience true joy and nirvana.

A formula for joy equates desires
fulfilled divided by desires entertained—
so having no desires brings infinite joy.

In his Metaphysics, Aristotle says
"In the beginning is not the seed but the perfect."
If "the seed" is desire and "the perfect" is joy—

then joy came first— Indeed the Upanishads
rishis proclaim "From joy all beings have come,
by joy they all live, and unto joy they return.

Oh the wonder of joy! I am the first-born
of the world of truth, born before the gods,
born in the centre of immortality."

  — Peter Y. Chou
      Mountain View, 4-9-2016