We live in a society that removes pain with safe zones and bailouts. But what if the real secret to joy is suffering?
Douglas Abrams, co-author of The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, joined The Glenn Beck Program to talk about how embracing adversity creates opportunity, growth and joy. This important lesson was reinforced by his two co-authors: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.
“These two men, in addition to being global icons and moral leaders for the world, are actually really dear friends and love each other and tease each other. And it’s kind of extraordinary to see these two men who are so revered, kind of laughing with each other and teasing each other,” Abrams said.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships — or, as they would say, because of them — they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World offers a rare opportunity to experience an astonishing and unprecendented look at how to find joy in life’s inevitable suffering.
Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:
Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:
GLENN: I want to introduce you to somebody, Douglas Abrams. He is an author and editor. He works with people who are — are trying to create a wiser and better world. And he has — was allowed to spend time with two men who were both in their 80s and have a very interesting perspective. If I said to you losing what was most valuable to me, losing my country was the best thing that ever happened to me, you would say, “Excuse me? How could you find joy in that?” You know the best thing that could ever happen to you: Going to prison.
I’m sorry. What?
Two people with extraordinary vision when it comes to finding inner peace and joy. I had the opportunity to meet one of them. And it was — it was a — a surreal experience. One of the men that he was allowed to spend time with was the Dalai Lama. And the other is archbishop Desmond Tutu. And the book is The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.
Doug Abrams. Welcome to the program, Doug, how are you?
DOUG: Great to be here, Glenn. Thanks so much.
GLENN: So, Doug, let’s start with losing my country as perhaps the thing that set me free.
DOUG: Yeah. It was a pretty extraordinary moment. We had a week together in Dharamsala, India, with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.
GLENN: Who, by the way, if anybody doesn’t know, that’s like way — it’s like, what is it? A 15-hour drive to the closest airport. It’s like way out of the way, is it not?
DOUG: It’s in the foothills of the Himalayas, in northern India. Many of your listeners know the Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet because the Chinese invaded. And this is his home in exile where we had the privilege of spending this week.
And these two men, in addition to being global icons and moral leaders for the world, are actually really dear friends and love each other and tease each other. And it’s kind of extraordinary to see these two men who are so revered, kind of laughing with each other and teasing each other.
And so at one point, you know, Archbishop Tutu — you know, we were talking about what allows us to have joy in our lives, even in the face of adversity, in the face of a world filled with suffering.
And Archbishop Tutu turned to the Dalai Lama, and he said, “Why are you not morose?” You know, you’ve been run out of your country. And the Dalai Lama didn’t know what the word “morose” was, so he turns to his translator.
And Archbishop Tutu says sad. Why are you not sad? You have — everything that you love has been taken away from you.
And the Dalai Lama turned to him, and he said, “You know, I tried to step back and take a wider perspective and see that, yes, all of this suffering has happened, but if I had stayed in Tibet, I would have never been able to have the life that I had. I would have never had been able to meet all the people that I’ve met. I never would have met you.”
And he was able to shift his perspective and see — and even in the face of great suffering that he and his people have experienced, he has had a much richer life than he would have had in what he called his gilded cage, being the holy Dalai Lama, as he said, in Tibet.
And then they started cackling and giggling about how, you know, he probably wouldn’t have won the Nobel Peace Prize. And here are these two guys, who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, are joking about these supposedly amazing awards that they’ve gotten, as if they were, you know, kind of peripheral and funny.
But this was — the whole week together was filled with these kind of counterintuitive insights about how deeply connected joy and sorrow are and how, in fact, it’s through the adversity that we discover our joy and our fulfillment.
GLENN: So, Doug, I — this is something that my father taught me.
I was whining about my life. I’m a recovering alcoholic. And this is 20-some years ago. And I was whining about my life.
GLENN: And my dad, who is a baker, who was listening to me whine to him on the phone. And he said, “You know, son, I’ve got to pull some bread out of the oven. Call me tonight. Make a list of all these things. Because, boy, you have suffered so much. Why don’t you call me back tonight.”
I called him back within ten minutes. Because the first thing that was on my list was my mother’s death. And then I don’t remember what was on my list. I got to three or four, and I was like, “Now, wait a minute. Hang on just a second. Well, if that wouldn’t have happened, then this wouldn’t have happened.”
And then I went back up to the list. And I got all the way to my mother when I was a teenager dying. And I thought, “Well, that wasn’t — I mean, yes, that was tragic. But that — that caused all these other things that have put me in a position of X, Y, Z.
I called my father back, and he picked up the phone. And I said, “You don’t have any bread in the oven, do you?” And he just laughed and said, “Wow, you’re faster than I thought.”
But we are now living in a society that is trying to take away — is trying to say, “Life is painless. If you fail in business, don’t worry, we’ll bail you out. Let’s have safe zones. Et cetera, et cetera. We do have to try to be better to each other. We do have to try to help one another. But there is something huge.
Don’t take away my right to — to fail or to learn from suffering.
DOUG: Well, this is a really good point. Because you even see it with playgrounds, we’re taking away swings because kids could get hurt. And I think — you know, one of the things that they remind us, is that it is actually the — the adversity that we face, the suffering we go through. And, you know, I’m speaking as a parent of three kids.
DOUG: We want to save our children from suffering.
GLENN: Yes, we do.
DOUG: We want to keep them safe. We want to protect them, but it’s actually that suffering, that hardship that they go through that helps burnish their character and make them the people that they are.
You know, when we kind of wrap them in bubble wrap and protect them from life, thinking that we’re doing the best thing, we’re actually robbing them of their capacity, not only to grow and to learn, but I think what they would say is to appreciate life in such a way that allows it to be richer and more joyful.
GLENN: There is story after story, and it depends on how you tell the story.
For instance, Schindler’s List. Powerful. Never cried more than in Schindler’s List, until I saw Life Is Beautiful.
Same story. One concentrates on the horror, and the other concentrates on how these people lived in such a beautiful world inside of that horror because of the way they chose to live. Almost impossible to see yourself getting there. What is the secret of getting there?
DOUG: Well, you mentioned Schindler’s List. And I also have the privilege of working with this extraordinary woman named Edith Eva Eger, who is 90 years old and is an Auschwitz survivor. And she’s an incredible psychologist. And she was working with the military. She worked a lot with the military on PTSD. And she went in to work with these two soldiers back-to-back. And both of them had lost their legs in combat. And the first one was kind of — was, you know, nodded up in the bed. You know, cursing God and country. And, you know, just — you know, just furious about what had happened. And understandably so.
The next guy that she goes in to see is in his wheelchair. He says to her, you know, “I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life. I’m able to look my children in the eye. I’m still here with them. I never noticed how beautiful the flowers in the garden are.”
I mean, you know, it’s this focus on perspective. Now, look, you know, this is not to tell people that, you know, suffering is easy or to be Pollyannish or to just say, “You know, we just have to look at the glass as half full.”
GLENN: Or to even say, flog yourself because you’ll be better. No, not good.
PAT: No, no, no. I don’t think we’re saying that at all.
PAT: But we’re saying that their — so The Book of Joy, one of the things they talk about are these eight pillars of joy in The Book of Joy. That they fell — you know, they say, “You know, you can’t ran after happiness.” Archbishop Tutu says, “That’s the fastest way to miss the bus, if you’re just kind of running after it and trying to pursue it. But if you cultivate these eight pillars of joy, one of which is perspective, you’re much more likely to experience joy in your life.”
GLENN: What are the eight pillars?
So there are four pillars of the mind and four pillars of the heart. The four pillars of the heart are perspective, humility, humor, which is crucial for them and for life — being able to laugh at ourselves and life — and acceptance. Those are the four pillars of the mind. The four pillars of the heart are forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.
And, you know, in The Book of Joy, they — it’s kind of three different parts.
The first part of our dialogue was to understand the nature of joy because, you know, there really are only four fundamental human emotions. There’s fear, anger, sadness, and joy, according to the scientists, which they wanted us to bring in.
So really, when we’re talking about joy, we’re talking about everything that we hang a satisfying and meaningful life on. And, in fact, how we deal with the other three profound human emotions of fear, anger, and sadness. And then we actually — in part two, we look at the obstacles of joy together and looked at things like fear, sadness, anger, illness, fear of death. All the things that kind of rob us of our joy. And then we explore the eight pillars together.
It was incredible. You know, the dialogue was amazing. But what we try to do is actually bring readers on that journey. Because it was an incredible week together —
GLENN: I bet it was.
DOUG: Not just filled with so much laughter and tears and incredible stories that they were sharing, but we also got to — the Dalai Lama taught us to meditate. Archbishop Tutu gave the Dalai Lama communion. The Dalai Lama danced for the first time in his life because, you know, Archbishop Tutu in his irrepressible African boogie got him up to dance. It was just — it was pretty magical.
GLENN: I will tell you I spent — I was lucky enough to spend about eight hours with Billy Graham about five years ago. And everything that you’re talking about, I saw from him. And it’s — there’s something to a man who has tried to pursue a spiritual, decent, God-fearing life his whole life. And then is in his 80s. They — they just have a different look to them. You just look them in the eye, and they — they are full of joy. They don’t have fear because they — they just know. They just know what they know they know. And the acceptance and love of people who are vastly different than them is — is humbling. Very humbling.
DOUG: It’s really — it’s so true. When I was at HarperCollins, we worked with Billy Graham. And I just — I do think you see it in all of these great spiritual teachers. But I think one of the things that is so extraordinary is that they shared their humanity with us, in a way that was not saying, “Okay. We’re these vaunted, you know, special spiritual guys.” They were — we are these human beings, who are on the path with you.
GLENN: Yeah. Yeah.
DOUG: And as Archbishop Tutu said, “We are all masterpieces in the making. You know, we are all on this path. And sometimes we fall, and sometimes we, you know, have bad days. And sometimes we lose our tempers at our wife, as I did last night.” You know, we all go there. But we’re all on this — you know, we’re all on this path of trying to be the best people that we can be and to grow and learn in our lives.
And the — what we wanted to try to do, as we said, you know, for these two men who are in their ’80s, to try to bottle what is it about these two people who are two of the most joyous people on the planet, who have experienced such incredible adversity and suffering in their lives and still are able to hold on to that quality of joy.
GLENN: Doug Abrams, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And we’ll talk to you again. And in this season of joy, I wish you lots of joy.
DOUG: You too, Glenn. Thank you so much.
GLENN: Thank you. You bet. The name of the book is The Book of Joy. Lasting happiness in a changing world. Everything that he just said about the eight pillars is — is exactly what I saw in Billy Graham. Exactly what I saw in Billy Graham. And it was humility and his humanness as well. His — his taking me by. The hand and saying — with tears in his eyes, “I failed so many times in my life. I failed, but I tried my hardest.”
Was — oh, my gosh. You are — you’re just like me. And that is — there’s something special about seeing that from somebody the size of these giants. Know somebody who is looking for joy? The Book of Joy. The Book of Joy.
Featured Image: Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama speaks with the Archbishop Desmond Tutu (L) visit the Concert Noble Building on June 1, 2006 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)