Monday, August 13, 2018

A capacity for joy

What does it mean to have a capacity for joy? I'm sure the actual experience of joy, or rather the granular details of that which delivers joy varies across people. And mine relates to an agglomeration of a multitude of things. And of course, these things only gesture to another multitude of worlds. So here's a list.

(a) Cats and dogs and animals: This morning, a bright white tomcat appeared at my backdoor and whined for food. I fed him two biscuits bit by bit by bit, after which he passed a soft paw through the grills on the door and gave me a low five. Every other day, two monkeys clamber onto my kitchen window and make plaintive sounds asking for food, watching me as I cook and babble nonsense at them. Some days in the morning, I leave them some food. And then there are the dogs everywhere who cock their heads and make communion; some of them charge towards me, ears down, soft and loving like only dogs can be.

All joy is about all life. Even as I anthropomorphize, my capacity for wonder is also the capacity for joy. Unbidden and boundless, unexpected and full.

(b)  Flowers: Now why do I love flowers so? Probably because they make me feel like the outdoors are indoors and that my home is not enclosed but open to the wind and the meadows and the sun and the stars. That the bright orange, purple and yellow blossoms waving in the wind of the fan, are nodding and cheering on the business of daily life. That no matter the sorrows of the moment, it is the nature of the day to move on. Some days, I pass women in the street, their hair glistening with oil and jasmine blossoms, and I think, Orientalism be damned, how beautiful are they.

(c) And then there are those conversations, the fodder and noise of life; in which I eavesdrop upon stranger and friend alike, and in which strangers tell me the stories of their lives. And what wonders are these stories, what telenovelas of abandon, bravery, chutzpah, and fortitude. How do we all live lives under so much duress? And therefore we must find momentary shelter, in words and deeds alike, and remember that this is a human ordeal, of different proportionality albeit, but shared nevertheless.Once upon a very long time ago, my father and I accompanied a very drunk, very shattered, melancholic man, back home from the train as he wept continually and quietly, to his home in the Bombay suburbs. We were received by his wife, who held his arm and asked him to drink some water. I mention it now to no avail.

(d) And last but not the least, let me tell you all about theory. For the driving forces of my life are theories—organizing mechanisms that explain the world to me, shattering like chimeras one by meticulous one. They hold together thought and the world, fleetingly and powerfully, knowing fully well that the conditions of their being are their fallibility. And in this is both their joy and their force. For all explanations are partial, all worlds are solipsistic, and like mirrors in which we view ourselves, ultimately false, albeit comforting. So I turn to feminism, and poststructuralism, and Marxism, and postmodernism, and postcolonialism, and find the world rendered a kaleidoscope of possibility and joy; turning this way and that.