Monday, April 12, 2010

Thrilled By The Joy

Simply stated, my plate is quite full right now. We are in the midst of home remodeling, preparing for Offspring No. 2's high school graduation and impending departure for college, and planning our wedding. In the midst of all this, our students still want to be taught (Okay, maybe WANT is a little strong), the kids and the dogs here still want to eat, laundry still needs to be done, the grass still needs to be mowed, and despite the consumption of ridiculous amounts of caffeine and sugar, I still seem to require sleep every night. Somehow with all of this on my mind, I found time to ponder an important question:

What is the difference between thrill and joy?

Like any good academician, I turned to a primary source,, to help enlighten me. Here is what I discovered.

Joy is:
  • the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation:
  • the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety.
  • a state of happiness or felicity.
Thrill is:
  • a sudden wave of keen emotion or excitement, sometimes manifested as a tremor or tingling sensation passing through the body.
  • something that produces or is capable of producing such a sensation:

Well, that clears it right up! Except for the tingling that a thrill causes, I''m still not sure what the real difference is; however, I know there must be one. We talk about "thrill seekers" not "joy seekers" and going "joy riding" not "thrill riding". We are encouraged to look for joy in all things but discouraged from hoping for a thrill in all things. This approach to life will surely lead to disappointment. The classic book is entitled The Joy of Sex but most people want to talk about the thrill of sex. Perhaps that is where the part about tingling sensations helps clarify the difference in the two words. We don't sing "Thrill to the World" or "Thrilling, Thrilling We Adore Thee". We are intrigued by thrillers on the big screen, not joy-bringers. We don't congratulate new parents on their bundle of thrills. We can be over-joyed. Can we be over-thrilled?

So again I ask, what is the difference between joy and thrill? Is a thrill a physiological manifestation of elation and joy a psychological manifestation? Is joy something positive and thrill something negative? Is thrill merely a transitory sensation and joy a lingering state?

I think I am more confused now than when I started this semantic inquiry. Perhaps it is best to let all this swim around in my rather cramped head while I joyfully seek the thrill of clean laundry.