Delightful Developments: Haikus, Nihilism, and Vampire Slayers

During my #100happydays project, it often struck me that so many of the moments which fill me with joy are impossible to capture in one photograph and one concise caption. Life landmarks and photogenic brunches are one thing, but not all forms of happiness are self-evident. In fact, it’s often hard to even pinpoint what provokes those sustained or fleeting moods when you completely forget how tired you are or how many worrisome deadlines that are looming in the near future. You tap into this sudden welling of energy, laughter, and passion for living so intense that you’re simply content with whatever occupies your present. There’s not always a rhyme or reason to how and when and why this happiness happens (although studies have consistently linked its occurrence to pizza consumption). But whether it comes from a few days of Netflix binging, a stray thought, or long, in-depth conversations with friends (or a slice of pizza), it lingers. And I’d like to spend some time, as summer slowly comes to a close and the new semester hovers in the middle distance, to reflect on some of these moments each week.

This Week In Things That Are Making Me Happy:

1) This NY Times Haiku Tumblr somehow developed an algorithm for finding accidental haikus in the pages of the NY Times. Mostly, the idea of accidental poetry just completely delights me. It’s the perfect response to all those haters who write articles about the death of poetry and the musty old ghosts of the people who haunt small printing presses and read their subscriptions to Poetry magazine over a cup of fair trade coffee. It’s just such a feel-good underdog story! Journalists everywhere revel in their edgy, hard hitting agreement that contemporary poetry is simply a poor shade of a once glorious form that caters to a small, incestuous, privileged population of poets. Then BAM, the conspiracy theorists reveal that we’ve been reading poems in our morning news roundup without ever realizing it and then some neuroscientists declare that something about the rhythm of language just lurks around in our hardwired humanity. It’s like the English majors remake of Love Actually, where in the end you’re left with a delightful montage of haikus emerging from the objective and the mundane and our narrator utters the words “Poetry is actually all around” as the screen fades to black. Siigghhhh, we all just feel better about the world now. I also love the way seeing the sentences printed in all their hyper-conscious syllabic line-broken glory changes the way I read- like every word matters, and every word is a  purposefully-selected surprise chosen from a pool of several thousands of possibilities. I want to begin pausing at all line breaks, like the space and the silence between words matters too. I want to read everything like I read these Times Haikus, because they just make me so happy.

2) I spent the past few days alternately sleeping through some funky stomach bug and binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. As a general rule, Joss Whedon makes me happy, but Buffy just takes my joy to the next level. Partly nostalgia, partly the sheer amount of bad assery, and partly the newly acquired knowledge that Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) went on to play Lily Aldrin on How I Met Your Mother. And it is just so strange and wonderful to hear Lily Aldrin’s voice saying Willow Rosenberg things, especially later Buffy seasons where Willow’s evil alter ego says shit like “This is a dumb world. In my world, there are people in chains and we can ride them like ponies.” I mean, Buffy also makes me super sad in the sense that characters I get attached to will inevitably either die horrible deaths or end up betraying some other characters I care about, but it’s hard to be too depressed when Joss Whedon goes around casually changing television, one empowered female character at a time: “The first thing I ever thought of when I thought of Buffy was the little…blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed, in every horror movie ever. The idea of Buffy was to subvert that idea, that image, and create someone who was a hero where she had always been a victim.” So perfect. #ThanksJoss

3) One of the high school students that I tutor just picked our next book, Albert Camus’ The Stranger. He confessed that he just picked it because it was short, and then asked me what it was about. And I just got this mental picture of one of those “Have you hugged your kids today?” bumper stickers, only my version read “Have you taught a kid about nihilism today?” And I chuckled to myself, the satisfied chuckle of a person who will sleep soundly with the knowledge that she did indeed teach a kid about nihilism today. Except our conversation probably meant nothing…hehehe, get it? Because nihilism. This is how most of my conversations with myself unfold.

4) This #fierce instagram. Long live the Queen!

But really, this whole Buzzfeed article made me happy by making me think about and appreciate my own list of empowering figures, whether they be cultural icons, feminist authors, fictional characters, or personal friends and mentors. SO MANY FEELS AND ALL OF THEM HAPPY.

5) What happens when a Religion major and an English major gather together for some coffee, biblical close reading, and conversation? I get really happy. My faith in faith gets restored, which is something that I actually really needed this week. And probably every week. There is nothing more encouraging than reading a passage that has been twisted and used to oppress others (i.e. most verses in the Bible) and discovering that the words on the page read very differently when you bother to consider things like context and translation. I seriously can’t count the number of times I’ve heard sermons citing the infamous Proverbs woman as evidence for why “valuable women” are pure and subservient…nobody ever told me that halfway through this passage (verse 26, to be exact) it says “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” And then if you backtrack to the framework of the passage, laid out at the beginning of Chapter 31, it says “The words of King Lemuel. A lesson that his mother taught him.” So, this passage is quite literally a self-referential act of women teaching and leading in action. Let’s talk about that occasionally. Or we could talk about the other half of Proverbs 31 too, the part where men/kings are not supposed to drink “lest they take away the rights of the oppressed” while drunk. Seriously, that’s there. Now gleefully footnoted, See oppression and (the abuse of) privilege, topics that the Bible apparently talks about quite a bit and something that we, in our religious communities, rarely talk about at all. This is actually the first time I’ve been genuinely excited about a religious discussion in months, when I’ve gotten to unpack something and see that, underneath all the bullshit I’ve heard, there’s still something there that I can believe in. Especially in the wake of some less encouraging conversations I’ve had in the past year, and especially in the wake of the name of religious freedom being used to limit the freedom of women to exercise control over their own bodies, these sorts of conversations keep me afloat. I’m a big fan of critically digesting what you consume (thinking for yourself) and I’m so grateful for the people who challenge me to do so more often. They make me feel lighter, they make me feel proud (rather than ashamed) to call myself a Christian, and they put a huge smile on for face that’s good for at least 24 hours afterwards. So you go learn Hebrew, I’ll go brush up on my ancient Greek, and we can try to figure this thing out together from the source- because I love re-learning the notion that I still have so much to learn.

6) This marvelous extended pun:

How do you know when you're middle-aged?

7) This pun is made even better by the news that accompanied it in my Facebook Messenger, the satisfying resolution of a saga I like to call Letter Lost and Letter Regained. Basically, a friend’s letter, which had blown away during its perilous journey to a mailbox in DC, magically found its way back to my friends’ apartment- and is now consequently on its way to me! Thank you kind stranger or fortuitous breeze! As always, summer snail mail is making me immensely happy and keeping me connected with some of the wonderful people in my life. Every time I open my mailbox and find a letter in it, it’s like receiving a warm, enveloping hug. Get it? Enveloping. Heh heh heh.

And on that note, may your week be filled with many bad puns and random, inexplicable bursts of joy! Over and out.



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