Helen Madden, licensed joyologist: "I love it, I love it, I love it!"
Helen Madden, licensed joyologist: “I love it, I love it, I love it!”

It’s time for the next installment in this curmudgeonly bitch-fest about Advent. Today, we will discuss “joy”. And, before you ask, I don’t have a problem with joy: I have a problem with the way we talk about joy.  The word gets thrown around like it’s no big deal and, really, it kind of is. Our approach to joy is reminiscent of Molly Shannon’s Helen Madden, licensed Joyologist. Helen was a “self-published author who finds joy wherever she goes”. You might think that sounds great. I don’t. How the hell do you find joy everywhere you go in a world as fucked up as this one?

Truthfully,  joy isn’t easy to find. I think that’s especially the case for white folks. I know that might sound inflammatory, but stick with me for a bit. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that things for white people in this country are pretty sweet. We’re more likely to be well-fed, have a roof over our heads and able go about our business relatively unmolested. We’re also more likely to have jobs and. unlike Blanche Dubois, not have to rely on the kindness of strangers. While we might feel a clutch in our stomach’s at the sight of the police, it’s usually related to a hiccup in our day like a ticket or something and not the possibility of a potentially deadly confrontation. And, these aren’t one-off occurrences; they’re our every day reality. Joy has to be pretty damn special to stand out against all that.

For all that sweetness, things still aren’t great; especially if you give a damn about the world around you. In the last few months, we’ve seen governments crap all over the voting rights of their citizens, access to birth control has come under fire, we learned the extent of our government’s heinous “enhanced interrogation” program and, once again, we’ve had our collective noses rubbed in the fact that young black men face state-sanctioned violence at a much higher rate than anyone else. And, like a cherry on a shit sundae, this morning, we woke up to the news that some whack-job was holding people hostage in Sydney, Australia. It’s finally over, but it doesn’t sound like it ended well. It’s a shitty world.

That’s actually the beginning of a quote from Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies((I haven’t read it…yet)). The rest of it goes “…, and shit happens, but we don’t have to bathe in shit.” There’s a lot to be said for not bathing in shit((aside from the obvious, of course)), but it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to do these days. Everywhere you turn, the shit of this world is practically thrown in your face. News organizations seem to glory in who can come up with the most depressing stories and the reaction to those stories from the people around you can be more depressing still. It’s almost enough to make you cry.

Considering that this series is about why I don’t like Advent, the following statement is going to sound strange, but Advent is sometimes an antidote for the depression I feel at being forced to “bathe in shit”.  Just the notion that there’s another, better way to do things is helpful. I won’t say it helps me feel “joyful”, but every now and then, the good feelings overcome the disgust at the fecal immersion that seems to be part and parcel of life nowadays. Maybe that’s what this whole “joy” thing is all about: finding something to help keep your head above the river of shit that life can be. Which tells me that while I may not be able to find joy everywhere I go, I probably do need to look for it everywhere I go. As much as I hate to admit it, goofballs like Helen Madden might be onto something.