Okay, so the title of this reflection is a bit “click-baity.” However, “Gay Science” is the
title of a work by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Or, as it was originally translated into English: “The Joyful Wisdom” (froeliche Wissenschaft in German). Nietzsche says that we humans should strive to act with joyful wisdom–that we should strive to respond to situations with affirmative, active attitudes, not reactive, negative attitudes. Well, duh! But Nietzsche develops “joyful” to mean more than pleasure or fun, but rather an ability to own even the most painful, regretful, shameful moments of one’s life, instead of being ashamed and blocked by those moments. Philosopher Robin James offers this interpretation of Nietzsche’s rule of thumb for living in joyful wisdom: “act in a way that if you had to re-live each moment of your life over and over to infinity, would always choose/affirm your experiences (rather than regret them, disavow them, feel shame or guilt for them, etc.)”
Joy is a word that we come across a lot during the Advent and Christmas season. You will find the word “Joy” lit up in store windows and shimmering on Christmas cards. In this particular historical moment, we need more joy more than ever. Both the experience of delight and pleasure that energizes and relaxes us,
calms our bodies down and reminds us of what is most precious and valuable; AND Nietzsche’s joy, the ability to affirm and acknowledge our choices without shame or guilt.
Post election, I have struggled more than usual with being White, knowing that so many of my fellow White brothers and sisters voted for our now President-Elect. And while I want to distance myself and say “I’m not like THOSE White people,” such distancing I don’t think actually addresses the suffering and pain so many experience because of the evils of White supremacy. How can I be a joyful White person, whose actions help create healing and liberation? We need energy, vitality, and courage more than ever. We need to be able to own our past, without guilt and shame blocking us from right action. So during this Advent, I am taking those lit-up store signs and shimmering Christmas cards more to heart than I ever have: JOY.
This Sunday in worship: Finding Joy in the Darkness–German minister and Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his family from a Nazi prison that “We can and should celebrate Christmas despite the ruins around us.” We will come together to reach out for joy amidst the darkness. Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy, Matthew Mason, and Sabine Klein.