The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Spark Joy

We are a highly visual species. We have evolved to be highly attuned to the colors of the visible spectrum, and to finding patterns (real or spurious) in the world around us, from the shapes of clouds, to the fractal patterns of coastlines to the supposedly predictable patterns of stock prices. Which leads to the following thought: since we are so perceptive of things, why not make them a joyful companion to our lives (often drab, too be honest)? Why not seek out objects turn us on and cause our hearts to flutter, if only for a moment?

The things that spark joy don’t have to be fanciful or expensive. In fact, many ordinary things can do the job, such as the quirky yellow vintage car you saw on the street, the graffiti artwork outside the train station, the candy colored decor of a nursing home, the sensual curves of an abstract sculpture on Instagram, or the vase that is shaped like a charming slow loris. I challenge you to add to the list. The point is – why not allow these ordinary things to create extraordinary, intense moments of happiness, which is what joy is all about? To get us going, I share a little poem I wrote that speaks to this simple quest for joy, followed by a (joyful) video clip of a TED talk on the why’s and how’s of sparking joy in the world around us.


Everyone needs things,
even the silliness of

balloons and confetti,
fireworks and graffit
chocolates and rainbow sprinkles –
We need them
precisely because
we don’t need them
not for the life of us,
but for the sparks they bring
to the drabness within,
the disease that’s called
“being too serious”.

© Wallace Fong, Nov 2021

TED TALK: Where Joy Hides and Where to Find It
by Ingrid Fetell Lee

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