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Dr. Stephen Pachuta's message from the dean, December 2023

Achieving joy and happiness

Dear fellow alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry,
The holiday season is commonly referred to as the “season of joy.” I believe most all of us have heard the expressions — “joy to the world,” “bring comfort and joy,” or the “joy of giving.”

Though not intentional, but certainly topical, I am well into “The Book of Joy — Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. To say that it is enlightening and incredibly thoughtful does not begin to do justice to the subject or the authors. It is also a much more deliberate and intentional read than most of my recent narrative engagements.

The lessons are the product of the two authors spending time together and sharing the stories of their life struggles. More importantly, sharing what they learned as a result of their struggles and life experiences, and applying it to our everyday lives. The overarching premise is that joy is much more important in our lives than happiness. Happiness is viewed as dependent on external inputs; and lasting happiness cannot be found in achieving goals or fortune. Joy, on the other hand, is a state of the mind and the heart. In sum, they collectively identify eight pillars of joy. Four pillars are identified as qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor and acceptance. The other four pillars are identified as qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity. The authors go on to highlight a number of “joy practices” that are focused on overcoming obstacles to joy. Many of the obstacles are self-imposed and require deliberate effort and focus to continuously cultivate the pillars of the mind and the heart.

While personal reflection and some degree of solitude are important in our lives, true joy resides in our relationships with the people in our lives and in our communities. During this holiday season, the qualities of gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, perspective, humility, humor and acceptance should have a special place in our hearts, our minds and most importantly, in our relationships. We wish each of you and your families a safe and joyous holiday season.

Lead well at every engagement and you will make a difference in the lives of those you meet.
Thank you for all you do for our School and especially for our students.

Warmest regards this holiday season,
Stephen Pachuta