As I settle into life here in Ireland, my view of the geopolitical landscape is shifting to a fuller, broader worldview: because I am farther away from the United States, I feel both more observant to what is happening across the globe and yet also increasingly sensitive to the repercussions of events back home. The world seems to be simultaneously flooding and on fire and in America, a fissure of indecency divides both our inner and outward identities. It is becoming ever more difficult to dream while the nightmares keep us awake.
I have clarity regarding my beliefs as to what my country should stand for and what it should not. However, finding a balance between staying informed and setting a healthy boundary in relation to the news has always been a murky proposition. While the air can feel consistently heavier during this turbulent year, there is oxygen to be discovered in joy. How we access that fresh air is up to us.
My favorite band, U2, recently released a new song called You’re The Best Thing About Me. On the way home from class the other day, I put in my earbuds and took a different way back to my apartment. With an exciting new piece of music flowing through my veins, I stumbled upon a playground near the bay. I immediately gravitated towards the swings. The bright, vibrant colors of the song turned the setting into an open-aired cathedral. With the melodic hook of the chorus planted firmly into the fiber of my being, each kick of my legs brought emotional ascent. The sun was blinding, the air felt warmer and the sea was sparkling. Soon enough, I was belly laughing. I was flying.
As the song ended, so did the trajectory of the swing. I came back to reality to notice that the sun wasn’t actually shining, the cold wind was biting my cheeks and the overcast sky was making the water appear monochromatic. It was the melody that filtered my lens, but it was joy that had made a spectacular entrance. And with the arrival of The Best Thing, I now had a ticket to this joyful show any time I wanted.
In this difficult age, we must remember that jubilation is both accessible and contagious. In a world where darkness can knock us into a corner, joy can be an act of defiance. It is our weapon, our rallying cry and our emblem. Joy does not mean ignorance or the dismissal of reality, but rather the opposite: it’s the awareness that no matter the circumstances, we hold the power as individuals to take emotional ownership of our situation. How we obtain that joy is up to the individual, but it is our responsibility to choose this elation as a defining quality.
Joy is a dare. And it’s the best thing about us.
(Copyright 2017 – Jason Natzke)
(U2 – You’re The Best Thing About Me © 2017 Universal Music Operations Limited)