Regular readers, if any remain, no doubt have noticed that there have been no posts on Story by the Throat! in a long, long time. There are a number of reasons for this. There are a lot of things pulling on my mental and physical resources that make it difficult to do such a simple thing as write blog posts.
I’m going to be real with you for a moment. My life is not what I want. like, really, truly deeply falling short of what I dream and yearn for. Oh yes, I have many pleasures, many wonderful, enriching friends, many creative and fulfilling pursuits available to me. And of course I live a life of incredible privilege compared to most of the world. But still somehow I find myself beaten down by life until I can barely even remember my dreams, much less pursue them. I drive many miles to work long hours at a job I hate, for a world machine designed to chew me up and spit out the bones. The joyous work I dream of doing–celebrating story, poetry, music–is unsupported in society outside of a corporate-sponsored celebrity system. The precious work that awaits me at home–husband, father, simple liver off the land–increasingly declines as the job exacts its toll. It takes the best wine from my cup and leaves me with dregs.
It’s like I’m running a deficit on spiritual resources; everything I do, everything I attempt, requires a loan against a soul reserve I can’t back up. And acts of love, of creativity, of joy, are the most draining, so it’s much easier to sit and anesthetize the ache with entertainment and frivolity. My time and energy are drained away until I have none left for the pursuits I care most deeply about.
And I’m not alone. I think many of us, maybe all of us, are suffering in one degree or another from this soul disease. Someone I love has found themselves stuck, trapped in a life that looks far different from what they planned, hemmed in with debt and workload and isolation until even the ability to hope for more is numbed.
We all suck at joy. We long for it, and I believe we were born for it. Yet we exist in profound confusion on how to get it. We sabotage our hopes, trap ourselves in our own desires, and delude ourselves about what we really want. We’ve built an entirely civilization that by design devalues joy, denigrates humanity, and consumes everything of value. With the spare soul change we have left over after the machine eats its fill, we attempt to pour spirit into that which we love. And it drains us, desiccates us, leaves us half-people. And we thank it. In fact, because we are still taught to dream, when those dreams don’t come true we often conclude that it’s our fault. Which is no surprise; the abused often blame themselves.
We all suck at joy. In this world-machine, joy is broken. What we’re engaged in now is joy rehab. The saying goes, “there are two kinds of people: those who are in recovery, and those who aren’t.” It’s grim work, but not futile. Joy Recovery means taking baby steps toward where your heart lives. It means valuing friends and loved ones the best you can, it little ways, then slightly bigger ways, then ever bigger. It means learning to hear the voice of inner knowing that tells you–YOU, and no one else–where your soul finds its food. The Rewilding movement, for instance, is dedicated to finding alternatives to Civilization’s way of life. My friend Willem Larsen recently said in a radio interview, “Rewilding…is following your heart.” Far from the trite platitude greeting cards have made of it, following your heart is an excruciating soul labor, grueling but rewarding.
We all suck at joy. Which means we need each other now more than ever. We need each other’s assurance that more awaits us than endless bleak moments stretching onward toward an inevitable death. We need each others’ voices to drown the voices of shame. We need each other’s perspectives to break down the programming and form new pathways for our thoughts. We need each other’s shoulders to weep on when the machine bears down more than we can bear. Willem, again, says, “Rewilding…is also about connecting to your family–your larger family, your village–and to the land where you live and belong.”
We were born for joy. A world that does not give it to us is diseased. That doesn’t mean that we cannot have it–it only means that we need to pursue it, lunge for it, claw it loose with bloody fingers from the fossilized rock where it is imprisoned. I’ll help you claw yours if you’ll help me claw mine.