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!