The Book of Joy

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World - Douglas Carlton Abrams, Desmond Tutu, Dalai Lama XIV

In 2015, Archbishop Desmond Tutu travelled to Daramsala for a week of conversations with the Dalai Lama on the topic of Joy and to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.  The Archbishop and the Dalai Lama articulated 8 pillars to finding Joy in a sorrow-filled world: Perspective, Humility, Humor, Acceptance, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Compassion, and Generosity. They discussed each topic and answered questions submitted by members of the public. The public conversations were facilitated by Douglas Abrams, video recorded (excerpts are available on YouTube), and summarized in The Book of Joy.  I randomly grabbed the audiobook off the new-book shelf because it looked interesting.


All too often when I listen to the Rabbi’s talk about the weekly Torah portion during services or when I listen to a TED talk, I go “that’s interesting, I’d like to think about it more” but if you asked me the main points later in the day, I couldn’t tell you.  I feel much the same way about The Book of Joy.  The discussions about how to achieve Joy in the face of both individual and world-level suffering were interesting, but it would take a lot more study for me to retain more than the broadest outlines of what was discussed.


The producers of the Audiobook made the decision to have separate narrators for each person speaking.  Douglas Abrams narrated his own role, and distinctive voices spoke for the Dalai Lama and Archbishop.  While I appreciated the ease of knowing who was talking, after watching a few video clips of the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama, I didn’t like that they picked readers with even stronger accents than the men themselves.  I also thought that Mr. Abrams was too blatantly adulatory and spent a bit too long dwelling on his own role in the dialogs rather than getting out of the way and letting the two stars speak for themselves. 


If you have a casual interest, I recommend looking for the videos of the meeting between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu or videos of other panel discussions with the two men.  If you are interested in a deeper understanding, plan to devote time to studying The Book of Joy and exploring the suggested meditations and exercises rather than just reading it.