An Earth-honoring religious path rooted in science

Embracing Joy in Dark Days

Where I live, we are right at the fractal edge of spring: winter is stuttering, and between rains come bright, fresh days in the 70s, rich with the scent of flowering trees and lush grass. There is no doubt: the Wheel has turned. Winter has run its course.

It’s days like these when the urge to be outside is almost irresistible: to breathe that scent, stretch out my limbs and welcome the warmth of the long-gone sun. To walk in shirtsleeves and feel that sensuous, liquid air flowing around me.

It’s heady stuff, and it conjures forth optimism and energy. Things are looking up!

Then I see a headline. And the pit of my stomach sinks. Until I catch myself, and let myself enjoy again.

I have spent a long time in the political world, and have experienced personally how it can eat your brain. Tracking what is going on in the news and responding to it both emotionally and politically can become an obsession. And for those whose path demands of them not only reverence, but activism, it is easy to feel it is our duty to remain ever-focused on the harm that is being done in our society, to be unswerving in our attention, effort and comprehension of that harm.

Well, let me go on the record here to say that is nonsense.

Living in times when terrible things are happening is not the occasion for wearing a hair shirt. We need not feel guilty for enjoying the sensual pleasures that are in our lives. In fact, they are what will help to sustain us as we fight the fight we must fight. There is no reason to feel badly about having a wonderful day, despite the latest abominations of the Trumpenfuhrer. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. It doesn’t mean you’re just riding along in your privilege and being a “good German”.

It means you’re living your life. Even as you apply your caring and effort to changing the direction our society is going.

Both are necessary. Both are valid.

I don’t in any way advocate losing sight of the plight of those who are exposed to harm by this reckless and ignorant administration of dunces. Including our beloved planet itself.

But I have seen what happens to activists when all they can think about is the ain’t-it-awfulism of the daily news. They lose sight of the point of living a human life, which is not only to be of integrity and service, but to be happy. They become bitter and greyfaced, and seem to draw a grim satisfaction from terrible developments in the news, as if they feel personally validated by tragedy instead of motivated by their opposition to it.

Don’t be one of those. Throw your arms wide and welcome the pleasures of the world. And then do the work we all must to make it a better place.

It’s spring, fer cryin’ out loud!



  1. Ah, I’m so ready for spring! Here, we had a warm February averaging 50 degrees but with several days in the 70’s and even warmer– everything started blooming early, and this week a hard freeze with wind chills down to 14. For Alabama, that’s coooold, and it zapped a lot of those flowering plants. Made me sad. It felt like a mirror for the ugliness in the news. But… it’s happened before, of course. Some springs are like that. It will get green soon. Amen to the pleasures and the celebrations!

  2. I can’t wait to have weather like yours so, I too, can immerse myself in it. I am so eager to begin gardening and surrounding myself with the environment again! I will enjoy it, especially because I will see all the intricacies of the beautiful world we live in. That’s if we connect to it and really become part of our natural world.🌻

  3. I recommend Rebecca Solnit’s book “Hope in the Dark,” which provides examples of amazing shifts in national/global consciousness that took many years, even decades, to accomplish. While we’re in the throes of daily activism, she suggests that hope means continuing to do whatever we can do with the understanding that there is always value and often the outcomes we seek — down the line. Hope does not mean expecting a certain outcome and when it doesn’t come as and when we expect it to, becoming disillusioned, cynical. Your message speaks to that: the Universe, in all of its manifestations surely supports joy in the midst of all things …

  4. We had the really warm weather like Pippa Abston, I’m one State over in Georgia. I almost took a house plant outside to a planter box I have. Luckily I didn’t because the next week the temps dropped below well below freezing.

    When you described the grey faced active activist so consumed with the bad political developments you were describing me. I ended up in the hospital. That was a “wake up call” for me to find the joy even in the dark days of winter. Now guess what its in the 70’s again and the sun is staying up longer and I’m feeling great. (See how I’m taking credit for the earth’s orbit and tilt. lol) But there is a bounce in my wheels. 🙂 (I have to use a WC.)

  5. Reading this just as spring starts to whisper here in Australia, a couple of years after you wrote it. A lot of people I know are really struggling with how to feel OK at the moment and I think a key thing is that not only is feeling joy crucial for our sanity and wellbeing as activists, but in itself it is also an act of resistance. The politics of hate and fear want us to feel bad and alienated. Late extractive capitalism wants us to believe it is inevitable and depend on it for our survival and fulfilment. Turning to ourselves, each other, and the world in joy and just letting ourselves feel alive and full of love derails all of that. Sure, it doesn’t make it any easier to pay the rent and doesn’t close the concentration camps, but it helps us to stay strong and not buy into their fear. We can reject their small-hearted, hateful politics and feel the world we want to live in, which means we can fight another day.

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