The Book of Delights: “Joy is Such a Human Madness”

Ross Gay’s wonderful collection entitled The Book of Delights honors familiar sights, sounds, and interactions by describing the wonder and joy found within each.

Undersong: To be free from projecting a censored and incomplete version of ourselves  

Ross Gay, author of “The Book of Delights.”

The Book of Delights
by Ross Gay
Excerpt: Chapter: Joy is Such a Human Madness

Among the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard anyone say came from my student Bethany, talking about her pedagogical aspirations or ethos, how she wanted to be as a teacher, and what she wanted her classrooms to be: “What if we joined our wildernesses together?”  Sit with that for a minute.  That the body, the life, might carry a wilderness, an unexplored territory, and that yours and mine might somewhere, somehow, meet.  Might, even, join.

And what if the wilderness – perhaps the densest wild in there – thickets, bogs, swamps, uncrossable ravines and rivers (have I made the metaphor clear?) – is our sorrow?  Or, to use Smith’s term, the “intolerable.” It astonishes me sometimes – no, often – how ever person I get to know – everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything – lives with some profound personal sorrow. Brother addicted.  Mother murdered. Dad died in surgery.  Rejected by their family.  Cancer came back.  Evicted.  Fetus not okay.  Everyone, regardless, always, of everything.  Not to mention the existential sorrow we all might be afflicted with, which is that we, and what we love, will soon be annihilated.  Which sounds more dramatic than it might.  Let me just say dead.  In this, sorrow, of which our impending being no more might be the foundation, the great wilderness?

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