There are many ways in which we can improve each others lives and I realize I spend a lot of time thinking about this possibility, it’s why I write, and hopefully why you read Living in the Gap. As T.F. Hodge claims, dream on it, think on it, ink on it, speak on it…then proceed to bring on it. Delight is ordered to find you. It’s shine time.
I recently encountered three powerful influencers, Candy Chang, Ross Gay, and Krista Tippett, a trifecta of inspiration, and as I processed the meaning and convergence of their unique messages I was pleasantly inundated with joy and unabashed laughter. The kind that showers ones life with unexpected droplets of delight. I know, totally drippy metaphors, but humor me, it all comes together in the end.
It has always been my intention to bring about change with my writing (not always the reality), but also to engage with a committed community so together we can figure out how to experience joy in the midst of our daily struggles, and in doing so tip the damn scales in a positive direction. You know what I mean? I think our efforts have to be not only intentional, but purposeful, and in some way riveting or we risk being hypnotized by the surrounding negativity.
I mean that if we acknowledge this reality that on autopilot, we’re going to be galvanized by something terrible coming at us, then those of us who care about getting this other story about ourselves in the world out there have to also apply some intelligence to doing that well, so that it will also rivet. Krista Tippett
We’ve heard it all before, but it warrants a gentle reminder, we have no idea the weight of our neighbors burdens. The truth is we’re all carrying something heavy, wallowing in some real or imagined tragedy, emerging from the ravages of grief, recovering from heartache, worn out from eradicating our addictions, reeling from a nasty divorce, thwarting the tactics wayward children, dealing with the consequences of our own poor decisions, or unfortunate upbringing, and as we age the damaging effects of the sun. The list is endless. It’s not always with ease that we greet each day, or seize the elusive moment, because most of the time my radar for delight is in need of new batteries.
Krista Tippett says it’s about the complexity of wholeness and the interrelationship of things. I can be as consumed with an idea as I am with a ripe apricot, both nourishing, both efficacious in their own way. I’ll grant you fruit is tasty, whereas ideas tend to loiter, and quite frankly some should be arrested.
Ross Gay says joy is the moments — the moments when my alienation from people — but not just people, from the whole thing — it goes away. And it shrinks. If it was a visual thing, like, everything becomes luminous. And I love that mycelium, or forest metaphor, that there’s this thing connecting us. And among the things of that thing connecting us is that we have this common experience — many common experiences, but a really foundational one is that we are not here forever.
Did you think he was going to say alone? So did I, but no he took it right over the edge, and buried us.
For most of us, the fact that life comes with an expiration date is not an appealing concept, I mean God sent JC to fix the issue, but the solution they devised is a little off-putting. He doesn’t rid us of death, he overcomes it, not the same.
“And what if the wilderness — perhaps the densest wild in there — thickets, bogs, swamps, uncrossable ravines and rivers (have I made the metaphor clear?) — is our sorrow? Or, to use Smith’s term, the ‘intolerable.’ It astonishes me sometimes — no, often — how every person I get to know — everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything — lives with some profound personal sorrow. Not to mention the existential sorrow we all might be afflicted with, which is that we, and what we love, will soon be annihilated. Which sounds more dramatic than it might. Let me just say dead. Is this, sorrow, of which our impending being no more might be the foundation, the great wilderness?” Ross Gay
So if our play time in physical form is limited what is the remedy?
That’s right, it’s has as much to do with a case of the giggles, as it does with a sense of delight with the world. Not so funny, laughter is serious business, because it heals, it connects, and engraves the memory with positive associations. This is how our sense of detachment or isolation dissolves, as if an Alka-Seltzer, “plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!” Okay, I digress.
The only way to court laughter is to let down our defenses. I’m not talking about chortling, I’m talking about a robust laughter, the kind where you have to hold your quivering belly with both hands, tears free falling unchecked down your cheeks, and a sense of pleasure spreads through your veins as if an infusion of nitrous oxide (laughing gas). This only happens when I’m with the people I love or I’m at the dentist.
It’s easy to remember how we look when we’re in the grips of laughter, but I had to awaken the slumbering memories, before they begin to surface.
I remember as a young girl how my Dad frequently used the sprayer that cleans the windshield of his car, but on my Dad’s car the right nozzle was broken, and the stream of water shot almost perpendicular to the window. He would wait until we came upon some innocent pedestrians casually strolling along the sidewalk, then he’d hold the lever down for a second or two, and we’d watch in total hysterics as the shocked pedestrians searched for the source of the unexpected shower. Spraying the windshield still makes me break into a smile.
On a more dire note I want you to watch this talk by Candy Chang.
I show this video to my classes each year, I use it as an opening prayer, and I never tire of watching how the students eagerly respond to the prompt at the end of the clip. Before I die I want to…survive World History with Ms. Burson, pilot my own plane, live in a foreign country, renew a broken friendship, play division one soccer, meet Taylor Swift, go to the moon, cure cancer, make my parents proud.
What is it that you want to do before you die?
Death can make us feel deep gratitude for the time we have left and bring clarity to the things that are meaningful to our lives. Candy Chang
Ross Gay says joy has nothing to do with ease, it has everything to do with the fact that we’re all going to die. When I’m thinking about joy, I’m thinking about death at the same time, as something wonderful is happening, we are also in the process of dying.
If this blog is my little plot of land, I like to visualize our community of readers earnestly tending the garden, because growth happens when we nourish our interior lives. Just like gardens we need seeds of thought, hydrating love, and maybe a little shit in order to bloom. Beneath this fertile land we have buried our beloved, their tombstones rest in the shade of the mulberry tree, guarded, adorned, and never far from sight.
If I remember for a brief moment every day that my time here is limited then the ability to turn on my delight radar it all the more effective. Ross Gay says it is not at all puzzling to me that joy is possible in the midst of difficulty.
I think about journalism a lot and how — when you talk about the delight — you developed a delight radar and a delight muscle — basically, journalism has a despair radar and a despair muscle. Krista Tippett
Larry and I engaged in a minor dispute the other day, we allowed it to spill over into the next day, both of us building barriers with our stoic silence. I’m sure a few of you can relate. The interesting thing about barricading oneself into a stagnant position is that it defies resolution. There is no joy in separation and harboring antiquated or erroneous opinions of each other is poisonous to a marriage. We all do it, but it has nothing to do with the current reality, which allows for the possibility of delight, laughter and love in the presence of each other. What we lost is precious time and there is no way to retrieve that which you have wasted by our own negligence, as if swimming with ankle weights, instead of floating on a hot pink raft.
He finally came to his senses 🙂
I can’t help but think about all the time I spend alone in thought, and the inevitable consequence of detaching from others to maintain this practice of blogging, which only undermines my basic desire for inner stability, and ironically heightens my fear of separation. I’m my own worst enemy on steroids.
I’ve been writing all morning, happily lost in thought, so I decide to take a mental break, drive to the gym, and take one of those horrible exercise classes. The objective being to sweat so profusely that by the time it’s over you’re so delighted it tricks you into coming back. I’ll be forced to socialize, this is a bitter pill when I’m in writing mode, but I brush my teeth all the same. I put fresh batteries in my delight radar and head out the door.
I’ll be damned if this random flock of birds flying in absorbing patterns over the Los Gatos percolation ponds didn’t catch my eye, then someone actually slowed down to let me into the flow of traffic on Highway 17, and to top it all off I found a shaded parking space when I arrived at the gym. I sort of skip over to the door flashing my ID card and guess what? The gym is closed today. I know, it’s closed, no sweating profusely, and chatting it up with a bunch gym rats. The fact that I got in my car and drove over there totally counts as exercise, and as if Pavlov’s dog I’m suddenly hungry, I laughed all the way to Lunardi’s Market.
Maybe delight IS the order of the day, I say grab some new batteries, it’s shine time!
Before I die I want….Leave a few ideas in the comments.
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll turn on our delight radars in search of laughter.
- Looking at the Earth and the universe from the standpoint of awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and magnificent mystery of all being. That’s what the new bottom line is about. Rabbi Michael Lerner
- Things that delight: my grandchildren playing in the sprinkler, vases of fresh flowers, spontaneous laughter, time alone, bacon wrapped figs stuffed with cheese, the privilege of important work, how we help each other, empathy over apathy, a new roll of toilet paper, hummingbirds, dogs, Clearlake, kindness, and let us not forget the blessings of the first miracle.
- Link to full podcast with Krista Tippett and Ross Gay