Sunday, December 19, 2010

"It couldn't be any more beautiful...

...I can't take it in." Can't Take It In by Imogen Heap.

As I sit in my little house, with stars and snowflakes dancing from the ceiling and mistletoe hung at dangerously regular intervals, and a glowing tree and garlands and a chubby little Santa smiling magnanimously upon the festive scene like the saintly overseer of this season that he is, there is one word that is echoing lightly beneath everything. As I empty my dishwasher the word dances across my vision; as I fold laundry, the shirts and socks seem to dance; as I look forward to my family arriving this week and being all together for the first time since the wedding; as the cat entwines herself deeper into my business and my heart; the word is reflected in my smile and her trusting, winking eyes.

The word is Joy.

It's partially a seasonal side-effect. I love Christmas, so I'm naturally inclined to rejoice at the nearness of that day. It's probably also resultant from how Ryan and I are settling into our new life with each other.

But the thing about Joy, and the think I want to talk about, is the splendor, the sense of the eternal in true Joy, and the blessed illogic of it all.

Let me explain.

I don't dispute the necessity of analysis, of logic, of reason--I hope it's clear that I value those things and hopefully practice them. But there is a time and a place where logic should be shod and reason and analysis checked at the door and we simply join in the frolic and dance.

It is a great tragedy that our culture has all but lost the ability to do this--we dare not enjoy, lest we look foolish--we dare not rejoice, lest we offend. We have sorted people into the "responsible" people and the vagrants--and to freely love and be joyful puts us into the vagrant lot, because responsible people must not ever be raucous and guffaw and possibly even believe that something that is making us so indescribably, incandescently happy, will last forever.

G. K. Chesterton uses the examples of falling in love, or winning a battle. Even if it is only puppy-love, and the next week proves it to be as undependable as May weather; even if the flag we fought for ends up becoming a country that fails to live up to the promises it made; that Joy was still ours, because we permitted ourselves to stop fretting and fussing and fighting and figuring and just accept the pure pleasure of focussing all our self on something else and stop clinging to our dignity. The relationship may fail and require time to heal and the country may have to be fought as aggressively as the enemy was previously, but those issues will result in new triumphs and new joys, if we just permit them to.

Americans always talk about the "pursuit of happiness," and we have let that idea become a model in our heads--a picture of what being really, truly happy looks like. If we don't reach that form, in the platonic sense, we have never been happy. But sometimes the solution is to stop pursuing happiness and happy. To be joyful regardless.

But while I am a huge fan of being Joyful, being happy and joyful is not the end goal. There must be an outside aim, a focus, a point, and the higher the focus, the truer the Joy. If you are only happy for happiness's sake, you haven't grasped the fullness of real Joy--because to be happy because we want to be happy is to rationalize happiness, and in this way it destroys it. Happiness must be allowed to be left a mystery, like love or peace or forgiveness. And to be happy because you want to be happy is essentially selfish, which is an aim lower than effective Joy can be focused, resulting in an inferior form of happiness, which is mere frivolity.

Indeed, frivolity is the cloak hiding a miserable mass of humanity, especially the younger crowd--college students and early career persons. They say they do enjoy life--those who do let loose and have a wild and free release of the human passions--but they have also missed out on Joy. It is not breaking of rule and tradition that makes for real Joy--quite the opposite. Losing control is viciously close to releasing control, but that subtle difference is enough. Losing control and rebelling against the values and ethics our western culture is built upon is precisely the last way to find Joy. For the world was meant to function a certain way. Releasing control does not destroy order and structure, rather it celebrates it.

Joy does not require things to exist, nor does it require circumstances or a certain full moon or a dollar amount or a color or club or person--though part of the magic of Joy is that it can be spring from any of those things. It is not because we have nothing else to live for. Joy ultimately must be because we DO have something to live for, because we have purpose and cause and we can let go and revel in a life worth living and something worth being Joyful about.

So that's my little discourse about joy--what do you think?

Merry Christmas!

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