making peace with joy

I’m starting this post while my stomach churns over the Zimmerman verdict, and I don’t want to write it. I don’t want to write it because it feels so frankly useless and irrelevant in the wake of so much horrifying injustice. My impulse says write about that, but frankly I’m not qualified and I don’t even know what to say except no. 

Last night I had a few friends over, so I could see them before I left for the rest of the summer, and we ended up talking about Sharknado. I didn’t watch it, but I did observe my Twitter feed and the ubiquity of the hashtag. Everyone was watching it, it seemed. Even the Communications Director for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins was in on it. And our conversation went on a bit about the gleeful ridiculousness of it all. I personally don’t like the “deliberately awful” school of entertainment (and I was that person who was legitimately scared during Army of Darkness). The Office is too awkward for me to watch (even though I know it’s on purpose.) But I was really interested in the communal groundswell over this SyFy movie. I’m always surprised when something brings people together (and I’m always grateful when it doesn’t have to be tragedy).

One of my friends, one who, like me, can’t deal with the intentionally ludicrous entertainment business, posed the quite-serious point of “But there are actually important things happening in the world.” And so why are so many people pouring all of this energy into bad CGI and shark puns? They could be mobilizing that attention on something more worthwhile. I’ve said the exact same thing myself, many times. The internal guilt–how can I be happy when there is so much sadness?–is paralyzing and omnipresent. I wish I had a way to tally how much I’ve written and deleted for that reason. I’m watching baseball and something nifty happens, some small pure thing, so I start typing. Then something ticks by that hurts my heart. I delete whatever I was planning to share. I do this at least half a dozen times a day, about everything: music I am listening to, things I have read, my obsession with the weather. How dare I how dare I how dare. And, to be perfectly honest, I don’t dare. Maybe it’s some attempt at courtesy. Maybe it’s cowardice.

What I think about Sharknado is wholly irrelevant. I have to recognize, though, that it brought a lot of people a lot of laughter and connection. And today–and other days–I’ve tried to make peace with the fact that, while there is much, much evil in the world and this trial is every evidence of it, there is also good. And it’s important to treat what is good as relevant, too. Ignoring what is good only gives the bad more power and devalues what we so desperately need. We know silence is the tool of the oppressor. So say things. Especially now. I have to remind myself of that. If I do not speak, if I do not write, I am complicit. So: I am angry and I am disappointed and I am saying that now. Dear God, what is this world and how can we suffer to go on like this?

I’ve got nothing more interesting to add to it, so I won’t. All I can do is keep saying it and doing what I can to fight the ways we fail each other, individually and systemically.

But I am also trying to recognize this: silencing joy will not defeat injustice, either. Finding something about which to be happy–truly, upliftingly happy–is not something to hide. There is always something about which to grieve or rage, and we can honor that without denying joy.

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8 thoughts on “making peace with joy

  1. Sometimes, it's like you're inside my brain, translating what I want to say into something better, clearer, and more powerful. Thanks, da Holly. Most excellent, as always.

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  2. Thanks, VJ. I'm still struggling with this whole concept. It always smacks so much of me-me-me, but I think there's something broken in this internalized training that says there's something guilty in being happy about good things. It's all a process.

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