It was a crying-in-the-emergency-room/on-the-phone-with-the-pediatrician kind of week. And simultaneously, it was a friends & PBR on the balcony, snorting laughter, visiting babies on the couch, hike in the rain with people I love more all the time, and reading National Geographic aloud to my littlest homie. It all coexists, it is all simultaneous. It was also my father’s death anniversary, which was different this year–less fraught–perhaps it was time, or maybe it is because of the high incidence of brain injuries in the family taking precedence? But it felt closer to how I think he’d expect us to remember him. We played Scrabble and made jokes. When I think of how I’d like to be remembered, I think of laughter. I want people at my funeral to watch Triumph on a huge screen side by side with a real-time video of Joe Merritt watching everyone watch Triumph.*
We had the great pleasure of writing workshops with the incredible Phil Klay, who in addition to being brilliant and well-read and thoughtful and generous, is as obsessed with DJ Khaled as we are (you’re obsessed with DJ Khaled too, right?). He is the epitome of simultaneously silly as fuck and serious as shit. We laughed so hard with him, but also dug really deep into craft and responsibility together. He closed two of his groups with the poem below.
A Brief For The Defense
by Jack Gilbert
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Sometimes it feels like we have a responsibility to be serious, to mourn, to suppress our laughter in order to honor our losses and the grief in the world. Especially around sad anniversaries. Especially when it feels like loss is everywhere and we have no right to snort-laugh while others have sacrificed and suffered. But we have a responsibility toward delight, toward putting that kind of joyousness into the world. Delight doesn’t deny the existence of suffering.
I’m really interested in these lines mean: “We can do without pleasure,/but not delight.” What do they mean to you? What is the difference between pleasure and delight? Where is the delight in your life? Try to make space for it, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
*make it happen, Wytold.