A subject I know next to nothing about

Not exactly joyful: stranded at the railway station in the rain.

Not exactly joyful: stranded at the railway station in the rain.

Yes, I’m writing about something of which I am ignorant (do you recognize hyperbole?).

Joy.

It’s patently obvious I know quite a lot about joy. I’ve already had two weeks of (mostly) joy this summer. A few dicey moments, but mostly unadulterated joy. Even when we were stuck at the St. Petersburg train station and the churlish bus driver wouldn’t let us on his bus because his instructions were to pick up a group arriving an hour later and it was raining and Russians seem to speak Russian, I didn’t get depressed. I wasn’t exactly joyful, but I wasn’t depressed. I do know something about at least having equilibrium of feeling.

I’ve written about my lack of joy (perhaps it could be called “despair”) before, but that darkness comes and goes. (I stopped that blog because it was way too serious—this blog is my humorous look at getting older. Got that? Humorous.)

Our dreary first impression of St. Petersburg looking up the street from the station.

Our dreary first impression of St. Petersburg looking up the street from the station.

Perhaps I need to find a lover named Joy (C.S. Lewis was surprised by Mrs. Right—I doubt I’ll find a Mr. Right named “Joy”).

I began seriously trying to find joy in 1987 when my psychiatrist (his clients were exclusively Temporal Lobe Epilepsy patients at Harvard Medical School—one of the few times I could honestly claim to be an elite) first prescribed Prozac. It did not then, and does not now—having it prescribed again by one of my doctors at UTSouthwestern Medical School—bring me “joy.” But it has kept me out of the depression hospital for several years. (This is my blog, and I’ll be as exhibitionist narcissistic as I want. We live in the age of Oprah, the age of public confession. If you’re reading this from the link on Facebook, you’re part of the exhibitionist culture.)

On a new day in St. Petersburg

On a new day in St. Petersburg

If I had had such a doctor, oh, say in 1950, I might have spent more of my life living in something that approached “joy.” At least I didn’t get hooked on Valium in the ‘70s!

Now you know all of my secrets.

I’m waiting to be surprised by joy.

I’m not saying I live in despair. I try to keep my wits about me and remember Rev. John Claypool’s words,

Despair is always presumptuous. It is saying something about reality we simply don’t know enough about to say. Therefore, the way to live in hope is to live above “see” level, that is to recognize that because of what we don’t know, we cannot give way to despair.

I don’t live in despair. I have a lot of fun. And I don’t feel lonely and isolated (except on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings—when I am).

What’s my point?

Yesterday I wrote on Facebook,

Yesterday on KERA radio on “Think” (the local interview-talk show) Krys Boyd interviewed Chuck Klosterman, about his new book, “I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)”. In the conversation he said he had turned the ripe old age of 41 and that he can’t understand why he is sure of so much less now than when he was 21. I tried to call in to tell him, “Wait until you’re 68. See how little you understand then!”

My point is, the older I get, the less sure I feel about anything.

A glory of St. Petersburg: the high altar at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul

A glory of St. Petersburg: the high altar at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul

Don’t feel sorry for me (or nervous that I talk about these things in public). I really do mean for this to be, if not humorous, at least not too serious. Because these days, my lack of joy is finally, I think, appropriate to my age.

What do you know for sure? Do you have enough money to retire—that is, do you have the $300,000 our investment advisor says we need salted away JUST FOR MEDICAL CARE? Do you know (or at least have a certain faith about) what happens to you when you die? Do you have someone to keep you company when you are 90 and living in “the home?” Do you know for sure if God exists or not? Do you really think the political system of the United States is designed to make your life better and better? What is the ridiculous “social contract” we all believe so steadfastly we live under? Do you have friends that you will be able to talk with about any damned-fool thing that comes to your mind? Do you know for sure you won’t have Alzheimer’s? Do you really have better things to do than play Sudoku for the next twenty years?

So I’m going to give up despair because my situation is at least as good as yours if you’re 68 or older.

Buffalo Bill ‘s
defunct
. . . . . . . . . . who used to
. . . . . . . . . . ride a watersmooth-silver
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . stallion
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jesus
he was a handsome man

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

(Note: The . . . .’s are not in e.e. cummings’ original poem; WordPress won’t let me format it his way without them.)

The sun also rises

The sun also rises

“One Hour to Madness and Joy”

The distant spire between two buildings: The old Mercantile Bank Tower. Now a sort of "second home." Taken from Klyde Warren park on a January day.

The distant spire between two buildings: The old Mercantile Bank Tower. Now a sort of “second home.” Taken from Klyde Warren park on a January day.

I said I’d never write anything serious here. But life happens.

That doesn’t mean what follows is serious. It simply means what follows is not intended to be particularly funny. It’s meant to be joyful. I’m so unaccustomed to joy—real joy, not happiness or fun, but real joy—I don’t have a clue how to write about it or what pictures to upload to capture its essence.

The style of ottoman I'd been trying to find for years is not my most important find at the Merc on Main.

The style of ottoman I’d been trying to find for years is not my most important find at the Merc on Main.

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But bear with me. I’m going to find a way if it kills me (There! That was my version of a joke—no one ever gets my jokes, I think). Sort of like my mother saying, “If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me” (didn’t everyone’s mother say that?).

Here are some pictures that I would never in a million years (well, that’s a bit of hyperbole we all understand completely, isn’t it?) would have taken before about this time last year (let’s say March 14 is the anniversary). Are they joyful? Yes. On more levels than I can say. Are they simply ordinary pictures of a city that is not thought of particularly as a beautiful place—Dallas? Yes. Joy, like beauty, is in the eye of the subject. Since I can’t write about my joy, my observations of some scenes others may not find beautiful will have to do.

If these pictures are not your cup of tea, scroll down to the bottom and see what Walt Whitman says about joy. Surely you will approve of his description.

In case you haven’t figured it out, let me say that my joy arises not so much from what I’ve seen in the last year as from not being alone when I took these pictures.

A metaphor? This block was a parking lot - for the federal court building across the street which has sorrowful memories for me. Now -- a playful fountain.

A metaphor? This block was a parking lot – for the federal court building across the street which has sorrowful memories for me. Now — a playful fountain.

Early on Sundays, a "morning bun" and coffee.

Early on Sundays, a “morning bun” and coffee.

 

The strangely beautiful "Harrow" by Joe Lubben in another park built by the Belo family. Who would have known Dallas had such exuberance?

The strangely beautiful “Harrow” by Joe Lubben in another park built by the Belo family. Who would have known Dallas had such exuberance?

We agreed: no Christmas exchange.

We agreed: no Christmas exchange.
But when you find the mixing bowl with a handle the cook needs, what can you do?

But when you find the mixing bowl with a handle the cook needs, what can you do?

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[A correction (I had too much trouble posting the pictures to fiddle with them): The park itself is called Lubben Plaza.  The sculpture is called Harrow; it’s by Linnea Glatt of Dallas.]

Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.
22. “One Hour to Madness and Joy”

ONE hour to madness and joy!
O furious! O confine me not!
(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)
. . . .
O something unprov’d! something in a trance!
O madness amorous! O trembling!
O to escape utterly from others’ anchors and holds!
To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!
To court destruction with taunts—with invitations!
To ascend—to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me!
To rise thither with my inebriate Soul!
To be lost, if it must be so!
To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom!
With one brief hour of madness and joy.
(The entire poem is here.)