NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Practicing Joy
Today's bloggerI took a break from blogging last week in honor of the Easter holiday. But Easter is still on my mind these days. The Christian holiday is what I am most knowledgeable about, but I find it fascinating that at least Jews and Pagans are also celebrating liberation, rebirth and renewal during this time of year. I don’t know what other world religions are doing right now, but, at least in Atlanta, it’s hard to imagine not celebrating the return of spring and new life in some way or another.

I like this yearly exhortation by the planet and by my faith to put on my best clothes and celebrate the triumph of life over death, freedom over slavery, or however you want to describe it. One of the aspects of faith that I have found most helpful is the yearly cycle of religious observance. Through Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost I get in touch with the gamut of emotions we human beings can have in response to our existence. Anticipation, hope, pain, anxiety, loss and joy all have their place.

Some people find this calendar of proscribed states of mind to be rigid and confining. Personally, I think of them more as guidelines. Some years I have felt like I was in a permanent state of Lent. Another year, I got half way through with Lent and decided I’d had enough introspective sadness and I declared my own personal Easter. It’s good to be flexible. But the point is to make sure you have a little of them all.

For many Democrats, 2002 and 2004 had more than their share of Lent. I think especially of the 2004 post election blame and reproach both from our own people and from outsiders. We hadn’t done enough grassroots organizing, we hadn’t countered the attacks on Kerry fast enough, we hadn’t reached out to “values voters”, and the list goes on and on. I own a “Sorry World” t-shirt and commemorative book so that I can advertise the collective guilt and repentance of the Democratic Party. Since then, I and so many other Democrats have read about, discussed and studied our foibles. We’ve had focus groups and workshops and brainstorming sessions. It’s been a long Lent.

Enough guilt, enough analysis. A year and a half later I believe it’s time to claim our Easter. The primary activity of Easter, as far as I can tell, is to be joyful. Many people might balk at the idea of being joyful before we have actually won much of anything, much less done much of anything. Also, I think a lot of us good hearted Democrats have a hard time with joy because it seems wrong to celebrate when there is so much to mourn – global warming, the war in Iraq, the state of our economy, etc. Shouldn’t we hold off on the joy until the victory celebration in November?

Absolutely not. The reason I celebrate Easter year after year is that I need to practice being joyful. That may sound odd but I think it’s true. To be joyful without forgetting the misery and brokenness of our world takes practice. But really it only means acting out what we believe is true – that a better world – a more just and compassionate world - is possible and that the actions we take can help make it better. That’s enough reason to be joyful – that we don’t have to accept this poor excuse for government, that we won’t let our fellow human beings languish in miserable poverty, and that we will find ways to preserve and heal our sick and poisoned planet. We have to know and feel all this down deep in our core before we do the work we need to do. If we don’t believe in this better world then what the hell are we doing? Just keeping ourselves busy until we’re bombed, polluted or starved to death?

In the Christian calendar, Pentecost, the season of work and everyday struggle comes immediately following Easter. Joy comes before the real work begins. Before we head out to do the work of canvassing, phone banking and registering voters that will consume us this summer and fall, let’s take some time to practice joy. I hate to give advice that I won’t follow, but I think a great idea for practicing joy would be to participate in the Inman Park Festival Parade this coming Saturday (unfortunately, I have to be out of town, but I want to see lots of pictures!). There will be all kinds of people being their own wildly different selves, and there will be kids and artists and music and good food and lots and lots of potential Young Democrats. What better place to get in touch with our joyful vision of a better world?

If we mentally prepare ourselves to be a victory kind of people, then, when we are fighting hard this summer and fall we will be able to draw upon that core belief - that the change we bring will result in a better world.
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posted by Justice at 4/24/2006 06:15:00 PM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog! I agree wholeheartedly. Despair is never helpful to a soldier, even a beleagured one.

4/28/2006 09:51:00 AM  

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