"We are all guardians of joy and responsible for making life's beauty visible and audible". - Dorothy Soelle
At theology school this year I was introduced to the work of the 20th century theologian, mystic and activist Dorothy Soelle, and I was really moved by her book The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. In it she made a point that created a sudden and powerful gestalt shift that struck me deeply- giving praise to life and creation can be a form of political resistance.
I spent my twenties at university immersed in the postmodern milieu, and I was an angry critic of much of what I saw in the world around me. The cancer, the 'Third World' death squads, the clear cuts, the addiction and the wars, the exploitation and the soulless skyscrapers, the superficial desires and the rivers of pop. It could all go fuck itself. I was typical of a certain part of the postmodern ethos, in that I shared a certain dark view of the world, a cynicism, a gloomy negativity toward modernity and capitalism and all that it had wrought. This wasn't all I was, but I was also definitely this, and it wasn't until I read Soelle's statement that something clicked for me- all of this outrage was the exact flipside of a deep love for the world, for life, for Earth and all its inhabitants.
It was the beauty of the world that was motivating me, it was the presence of the holy pervading everything that tore at my boundaries and raptured my heart, and it was this that made me throw my angry fist in the air and cry- enough! But it somehow never occurred to me that I could also voice this positive dimension, this praise for creation, as a form of political resistance. But this is exactly what Soelle encourages us to do. And it strikes me that at this time in history- where a new world is trying to be born, where the future beckons us through the gusts of the global maelstrom- praise of life and creation could be very important for inspiring a successful passage through to the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.
One of the greatest examples of praise as resistance that I know of is Allen Ginsberg's A Footnote to Howl. Ginsberg's mad and courageous joy have inspired my life deeply, and in the audio below he reads his Footnote to Howl with some kind of force. So whether it's in conversation with others, on social media, in community organizing or at protests, let's remember to also give voice to the beauty and joy that's all around us, to that which is holy, holy, holy, holy, holy!