Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ode to joy; or, Happy Opening Day

Opening Day. For baseball fans it is a holiday. A day to play hooky from school or work and head out to the ballpark; or at least, to stay home and watch baseball on tv. For the past several years I have had to teach on Opening Day, so I would put the games on in my classroom. At the beginning of each class I would tell my students about Opening Day and the hooky tradition. Inevitably one or more would suggest that I would still have time to make it to Oakland or San Francisco if I let them out early. Silly students always trying to get out of work. Even if only for a few hours.  I would use Opening Day to talk about traditions--national, religious, and personal. Usually, I would tell them stories about the joys of baseball and ask them to share their own stories. Then we would return to work with the Yankees, Giants, or whomever was playing that day flickering on the wall behind me. The day would mostly return to the normal lecture or discussion except for the interruption of occasional gasps of surprise or joy when a player did something amazing.

Happiness can be elusive. I remember being at a party as an undergrad, listening to a guy talk about his struggles with depression. I was listening intently the way that women do when they are into a guy. For the most part, it was the standard tortured-soul conversation like those that earnest english majors have in between quoting snippets of their favorite books and poems; but, there was one moment that has left its imprint and I remember quite clearly. He said something about seeking hapiness. I looked at him and leaned close, as I like to do when I think I am about to say something interesting or profound, or when I want to signal that I am into you. I said, "Fuck happiness. Seek joy!" He didn't get it, so I tried to explain, but between the booze, the noise, the night, and an unfortunate denseness on his part, it was futile.

What I meant that night, and what I now hold to be true is that happiness has an expectation of permanance. Joy is sudden. It is bright, and totally attainable. We have these sudden moments of brightness, warmth, and peace all the time: this is joy. It doesn't take a lot of work to attain as there is a multitude of opportunities for joy in the little things: And baseball is all about the little things. It is about sitting in the sun with friends eating stadium food and talking about your lives. It is about collectively holding your breath as you watch to see if what will happen on the field. It is about rising as one with hundreds (or thousands) of other people to praise or boo. Baseball is sunshine, green grass, sunflower seeds, and a couple of hours without care. It is caring about where your favorite player postions his feet, how far a small white ball can sail, and who catches it. It is about being carefree for a few hours in the sun. It is numbers, lines, statistics--ridiculous and otherwise--fences that are designed to be malleable. It is joy, personified: And that makes me happy.

1 comment:

  1. "...unfortunate denseness on his part" is just an awesome phrase.

    I do love what you're doing here with happiness and joy and I agree. "Seek joy" = words of wisdom. I'm not doing much of that lately. In fact, I'm avoiding it like I don't deserve it (hello, insight into my frame of mind). I'll try to keep this post in mind.