Jurgen Moltmann, in Theology and Joy wrote
“We may have fun, but we are in joy. In true joy, the ecstatic nature of human existence comes to expression. We are created for joy. We are born for joy.”
And in my best moments the sharing of this joy whether physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual can form a bridge that nurtures understanding. It knows what cannot be shared and understands the gaps and silences. It can know and embrace difference and a connectivity which brings deep life.
We are not completely to be defined as ‘pleasure seeking missiles’ – life is so much more complicated than that ! Gay goes to the heart of it here:
“What if joy is not only entangled with pain, or suffering, or sorrow, but is also what emerges from how we care for each other through those things?
The sentences that flow into paragraphs are full of curiosity, compassion and life. The quality of the writing is hard to capture in words. Ross Gay invites his reader into digging deeper, paying attention and seeing how landscapes can change. He talks of the complexities of his relationship with his Father – and how embracing our mortality is part of a deeper humanity that shifts our selfish preoccupations with agency, influence and power.
In this excavation of life we are reminded of our part in the community or neighbourhood we share responsibility for. He shows us what it is like to let our minds wander. Our dreams and distractions and lostness and limitedness can be hard but never boring. My first deep dive into these essays is littered with pencil marks ….. things to remember and questions for further pondering. The skill of knowing the realities of the intersectionality of our lives might lead us into knowing what we might need to change as we acknowledge our privileges. What could this look like or become might be our life and celebration of all that might be. The generosity of attention, our responsibility to fight the plague of racism or shifting the stultifying structures of education are all broken open for the reader.
This quote got circled as I considered the life of Sarum College and its aspiration to offer learning that enables human flourishing –
“real learning is unpredictable, improvisatory, and by definition, confounding. By definition, if the learning is real, the outcomes are unfathomable.”
In a number of conversations and planning meetings much is understandably made of how we might capture and describe these present days. Post- pandemic, the Covid aftermath, post lockdown weariness are some of the ways we might want to describe life at the moment. It is sometimes hard to know wether these descriptors are an embrace or evasion of reality. Gay invites into caring for one another especially during hardship. He thinks with his reader about the garden as a laboratory of mutual aid. We are asked about our relationship to public space. The fragilities of a dying Father are described with moving skill – in dying there is aways something that might be healed. His reader is also called to arms by considering the nature and purpose of public space.
In these essays I was left wondering what it is that brings us together. The gentle narrative has a hard edge inviting the reader into a space that is free but also provocative if we want to live differently ! A deeply theological book free from the constraints of obtuse language. This drinker of the essays was intoxicated by its life and joy.
I shall certainly be giving some copies of this book away – the joy of sharing indeed. This book will change you ….. I promise.