“If I ask you to name a joyful shape, what’s the first one that comes to mind? For many people I’ve asked over the years the answer is a circle.” So writes Ingrid Fetell Lee in her book ‘Joyful’. This comes as no surprise when I think of all the shapes of joyful things, balloons, confetti, a cup of coffee, plates of delicious food, bubbles catching the light and gently floating up like a dream, the spinning of a pastel striped hula hoop, the soft curl on a newborn’s head. A spinning top, a penny flipped to spin on it’s edge, the spin of a waltzer at the fairground. The symmetry of a circle is so complete, satisfying somehow in it’s completeness. Is it this completeness that resembles joy to us?
Joy, complete & childlike
Or is a circle the shape of joy because it is the shape of home; our planet, a pregnant tummy, a face, a hug? Can we combine the two? Completeness is a feeling of being home?
A circle is a curved shape, in design curves are associated with femininity and softness. Joy represented in shapes could be described as childish, youthful, elegant, feminine and complete.
“The circle’s unbroken perimeter and even rate of curvature make it the most stable, complete and inclusive shape. A love of symmetry is one of the best studied human aesthetic preferences. One reason we love symmetry may be that it is an outward symbol of inner harmony”.Joyful – Ingrid Fetell Lee
Joy beyond the physical
What about musical notes, curved balls of sound hung on telephone wires of five and the wide open mouths of a choir, these physical circles of joy create feelings of joy: “Sing in a group and you experience a rush of hormones associated with mood elevation and reducing symptoms of depression including endorphins and dopamine.”James Sills. Those round notes of melody in turn inspire dance; the movement of joy. Dancing also releases endorphins and helps you to connect with your inner child and express yourself. Dancing comes in forms of spins and twirls, circular steps and sets. Is the activity of singing and dancing why we associate circles with joy?
How about those metaphorical circles, a friendship circle, the idea of what goes around comes around, the moral arc of justice, renewal, recycling, restoration, – how do these circles play into our idea of joy? A circle is inclusive, it faces all, includes all, it has no sharp edges to cause pain or entrapment. Is joy found in justice, inclusion and comfort?
From this consideration of the shape of the circle; the shape of joy, can we then infer that joy is youthful, complete, feminine, musical, movement, justice, and inclusive?
Is it not too much to consider The Creator infused the shape of a circle with joy? That he meant it that way, that circles are meant to show us that joy is found in these things and finding these things actually brings joy? I like to think he did.
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Abi Louise helps those in the writing business make their important message beautiful and highly valued. She lives on the edge of the bookish city of Oxford, UK and the beautiful countryside of the Cotswolds with her three children.