The Subversive Act of Joy
Joy or in the old French, joie, based on Latin gaudium, from gaudere ‘rejoice’ is a curious word for us today and this for three reasons: first because in an age where we are threatened by so many things, radical climate change; the ubiquitous and irrational fear of the unseen “terrorist”; the precarious capitalist market that’s ready to crash at any moment, we too easily get sucked into a dark outlook.
The second reason why “joy” is curious is that it comes off as cheesy, cliche even. Of course, we are annoyed by the overly optimistic person who greets us with Hallmark card platitudes, but a disposition of joy can become a light for us that opens us up to hope.
The third reason that joy is curious is that it’s often, (wrongly in my opinion) associated with the holiday season in December. “Joy to the World” the Christian hymn is played and overplayed in December and we thank the heavens that January comes to alleviate us from the tyranny of such songs on the radio.
But for all these reasons and more, joy should nevertheless become an orientation for our being-in-the-world. A sense of an inspiring awe is essential for us in a world so determined by money, materialism, and greed. We counter an emotion with the dialectics of social rationalization, or as Jamie Saker reminds us of what Ernst Bloch writes about hope:
“The emotion of hoping expands out of itself, makes people wider instead of narrower; insatiable, it wants to know what makes people purposeful on the inside and what might be allied with them on the outside.” The Principle of Hope.
Hope opens us to the creation of meaning not determined by a vulgar materialism. It is this hope, this joy that just might serve as a revolutionary force in our everyday lives not in some blind ideology that ignores the necessity for struggling for a more just world, but a force that cannot be controlled by the tyranny of capitalism. Joy unites and brings us into a different world. This is the world worth fighting for. Joy thus becomes a subversive act for us today.