Hope and joy.

June 7, 2020 § 7 Comments

Hope is an investment in the future. It yearns toward an anticipated joy. But when the future is so uncertain it may last just a few days, it is hard to risk such an investment.

As the old saying goes, make a plan, make God laugh.

If we have learned anything from the virus it is that we are not in charge, so why jinx ourselves?

Unavailable for now is the joy that comes from aspiration followed by success. Also unavailable is the joy of a past success remembered.

I don’t imagine myself performing on some future stage; will there ever be a time when Hot Tamale can play for a gaggle of folks standing carelessly close to each other, maybe even dancing? And when a moment from a past performance flashes up, it hurts. Why wasn’t I more appreciative when it happened? How did I ever take it for granted?

I try not to remember or imagine seeing our daughter, her husband, and our two grandsons. Getting to New Jersey seems suddenly like a voyage off the edge of a flat earth.

Joy, as we have known it, is in short supply.

Luckily, there is a second, more spontaneous form of joy, one not predicated on hope. Unplanned, and unearned (like grace) this form of joy is more abundant in this time of crisis. Momentary and unplanned it takes us by surprise. This sudden splash of joy might have gone by unnoticed before the Corona Virus. We were all so busy then, so preoccupied, so puffed up with purpose.

This joy comes unexpectedly, overtaking us without anticipation or planning. Because we are moving slowly enough, mindfully enough, we notice the sudden, intimate beauty of something as small as a milkweed beetle walking a leaf.

Joy is sized to match what is possible. Right now it comes in the smallest of packages: a colorful butterfly in the backyard, a loaf of homemade bread rising in the pan, a two-year-old grandson saying, “How are you guys doin’?,” his face big on the screen.

Stilled and slowed, we take the time to really see what has always been all around us. This new awareness is a byproduct of the disruption of our routines, but it may also be a byproduct of vigilance. We are fully awake and really observing our surroundings, scanning for threats, and as we do so we see everything more clearly, the good as well as the dangerous.

Who knew the world was so beautiful?

We hope to hope again sometime in a future we are deliberately not imagining (why make God laugh?). Until then, we subsist on moments of joy that come unexpected. 

And, for once, we are present enough to receive them.

Note: When I wrote this essay in my daily journal, we were hunkered down–as we mostly still are–but we now plan to make that drive off the edge of the earth to go see our daughter and her family in New Jersey. We will make the car trip nearly as self-contained as astronauts aboard the Space Station–and hope we don’t make God laugh.

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