I think that today I’m going to write about joy. I have no idea where this goes. Walk with me …

I take as our text, two passages from the Book of Twitter. First:

We actually enjoy programming

Gee-Paw Hill
Just had another wonderful Friday-Night Coding session with my friends. (Yes, I realize it’s Tuesday.) Topics included synesthesia, mutation testing, certain inappropriate gestures, our pessimism about the movement we created, geek joy, and recording future sessions.

Let’s talk about the joy we get. Much of it comes from being people with common values, despite that we also have much disagreement. We trust each other enough that we listen, and we try to find areas of agreement before we dive into areas where we do not agree. This is made easier, I grant, because our ideas and ideals are pretty similar.

Last night we spoke a bit about how we each experience programming. Some of us seem to think in terms of flow. Others see bits of function in space or on cards, arranged somehow. Others see it as organized text. Some see programming as very much like something else. On the contrary, to me, programming isn’t very much like anything else that I do. Oh, I can see the analogies and all, but it’s as if programming is an inherent part of my mind, with its own representations, not riding on musical or graphical notions from some other domain. To me, programming is kind of a primitive thought process.

Of course, it isn’t, but it’s so much a part of me that it has its own shape, not a borrowed shape. I don’t know whether I’m better off or worse off for that. It just is.

But a thing that we all seem to share is a kind of joy from solving a programming problem nicely, or from building, or even seeing, a well-arranged bit of programming. And certainly the joy of sharing that joy with someone else, and, when we do a bit of programming together, the joy of each adding to the goodness of the work under our hands.

A point of concern last night was the possibility that among the many individuals whom we have never reached with the our thing might be folks who have never experienced the joy of programming well, or who experienced it so long ago, or so far from work, that they no longer even consider that their work might be able to bring them joy.

When there is no joy

And that brings us to my second text:

James Horn, PhD, quoting Fromm
“The capacity for the attraction to death is one which is given in any human being if he fails in development of what I would call his primary potentiality, namely to be related to life as something which is interesting, something which is joyful, or to develop his powers of love and reason. If all of these things remain incomplete, then man is prone to develop another form of relatedness, that of destroying life. By doing this he also transcends life, because it is as much of a transcendence to destroy life as it is to create it.” –E Fromm

OK, that’s dark. Let’s lighten it up a bit, at least at first, tho we may come back to the darkness. Let me paraphrase, or simply go up on my lines:

If someone fails to develop a relationship to life as interesting and joyful, or to develop powers of love and reason, then they become prone to relate to life via destruction.

Put this in the context of a burned-out ten or twenty year veteran of the code mines, who has been working on the same kind of thing for all those years, holding on because the kids are still in college, trying to find their life in the few hours at home, or in the bottle, or just in lying down on the couch with a pillow over their head.

Put it in the context of a Dark Scrum developer who is under weekly pressure to have done what was committed on their behalf, and faced with another provided commitment for more than can possibly be done.

Put it in the context of a developer who has “no time to do it right”, who can only get it mostly working and kick it out the door.

There is no joy in Mudville.

Too often, these individuals hate their job. Hating their job, they hate their managers. They often come to hate their coworkers. Sometimes they kick their dogs or abuse their spouses. All too often they even abuse themselves, which almost always spills over in some form onto all those they should love and nurture.

These people are not consciously doing destruction. But if there is no joy in a thing, frankly it is natural, as Fromm suggests, to want to destroy it. This way lies road rage, outrage at people who seem happier than we are, outrage at the very notion that someone else’s life might be made easier.

I seem to have wandered over to politics, don’t I? Yes.

A negative cycle

People without joy become angry. Anger multiplies, and is almost always focused outside ourselves. Yes, sometimes we’re angry at ourselves, but mostly our anger winds up directed at the idiot in the Porsche, the noisy child, the concerned spouse, the neighbor who seems happy, and … and … the government.

Such people want to cling together. (Probably like-minded people always want to cling together. Angry people are no different.)

Politicians see this anger as a resource. They help to focus it. The problem isn’t you, it isn’t your life, it’s THEM. The takers, the people who are taking your jobs, the people who don’t look like you or sound like you. What you need is to replace these politicians who want to give everything away while you work so hard, with politicians like you, angry, full of hatred, willing to say and do the things you’d do if only you could.

Mind you, this isn’t to say that the joy of programming will solve the world’s problems. No. I know individuals who do totally get the joy of programming, who are still explicitly on the side of [what I think are] the dark forces in America and the world.

However …

I do think that the joy of programming can remove a little of the anger from many folks who are currently under the thumb of Dark Scrum or some other kind of Dark Agile. And I’d like to help those people to find joy, either by dong things that are similar to the things that the Friday-Night Coding people do, or, hell, I don’t care if you program entirely differently, if you can find the joy in it.

I don’t know how to help, but within my limitations, I’m trying and will continue to try.

Are you lacking joy? How can we help you find it? Are you finding joy? How can we help you share it?