I'm a pretty melancholy guy, especially in the closing months of Montreal winters. But as I write this, I'm practically floating.
Maybe it's the promise of spring stirring lionlike beneath the snow. Or perhaps it's the influence of chasing the sunrise on my morning walks. Whatever it is, it has me feeling brave. That feels like a confession and vaguely embarrassing, which makes sense if we remember fear always proceeds bravery. But that's the truth. I'm too often afraid of feeling sad, being too happy (because a sad thing must be on its way), trying too hard and failing, or worse, looking like a fool. I'm afraid of making self-indulgent confessions – and of all the eye-rolls I'll never see.
Yet, I feel brave. And I'm willing to accept this blessing and run with it. Maybe it's the slow approach of a promised spring. Or maybe it's the warm breath of another lion, who calls us further up and farther in.
One good thing that's found me as I nurse this small seed of hope is Joy Clarkson's forthcoming book, Aggressively Happy. Clarkson confidently weaves memoir with literary and theological analysis, ranging from Athanasius to BTS to Sylvia Plath, into ten rules for an aggressively happy life. There's good news for the chronically melancholy, though, as she makes plenty of space for sadness and disappointment.
"A happiness that ignores pain, injustice, and brokenness is not worth having. But a happiness that can stand tall, look life in the eye, and smile anyway? That is well worth the fight."
It turns out being aggressively happy in this weary world takes a fair bit of bravery—more on the book below.
When Merit Drives Out Grace
I've been shedding tears throughout the latest issue of Plough Quarterly, and this article repudiating our meritocracy is no exception. But, it's also a beautiful meditation on what makes people valuable – and how to love them for it.
The anxiety I felt about her developmental pace didn’t arise from distress over her well-being. It emerged from my adherence to the warped values of a culture beholden to urgency and accomplishment above all else, the warped values of the meritocracy.
The Truth, Finally
An utterly heart-wrenching essay about lies, truth, and the grace of God that swallows both.
I have often lied about many things. In my family, we used to have a special language for how my husband would do the things he did. We would say he was hurting the youngest again, or I would say stop hurting the youngest, or my older son would say this will never end. But we did not say he is choking the youngest, or he is slamming the youngest onto the bed. I did say, sometimes, stop it. My older son would say stop it, too. Again and again, I would walk over and put the youngest behind my back and get right up in my husband’s face and say stop it, daring him to grab me instead. But our language—distorted as it was, truthful as it almost was—was never enough. It did not make things stop.
More Good Words
- Hide and Seek with Providence – Ross Douthat, Plough
- The Tranquility and Wisdom of Old Books – Alan Jacobs, Plough
- The Rot of Candy Crush and The Rest of Wordle – Anne Helen Petersen, Culture Study
- Scouring – Alan Jacobs, Snakes & Ladders
- Called to Die – Tessa Carman, Fare Forward
If you enjoyed my description of Joy's new book, Aggressively Happy, you might be interested in her podcast series introducing the ten rules for an aggressively happy life. I'm about halfway through my advance copy, and I'm already planning to buy several copies to give to friends and family, and I don't think I've ever done that before.
As I said, I'm feeling brave.
Also, keep an eye out for a more comprehensive review once the book is released! But for now, if you want the courage to look life in the eye and pull it into a big hug, joy, sadness and all, go preorder this book.
- More Speaking with Joy podcast options: Spotify | Apple Podcasts
- Bonus: An aggressively happy playlist of my own design with plenty of feels and lots of hope.
- Finally, I leave with this appropriate gem from the aggressively happy Stephen Colbert, one of my top 5 living Catholics.
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