To the earnest ones

You are allowed to be deep. You are allowed to care too much what people say to you and you are allowed to need a rest from absorbing the pain of people around you, pain they think is hidden. You do not have to be cavalier about things and you do not have to hide the things you care about most. You can be earnest in a sarcastic world; please, be earnest in a sarcastic world. The world needs overserious people and even, sometimes, wet blankets. There is no amount that you Should care, feel, or love. You do not have to wrestle yourself into nonchalance. No, you are not mistaken; there is an undercurrent of urgent beauty and great pain in everything, in everyone. You do not have to laugh often for your laughter to change the world.

You are allowed to be shallow. There is no one to tell you how many minutes per day must be spent in deep thought, and no one to tell you when you have gotten to the bottom of things. You are welcome to delight in sports, lipstick, cat memes, and cupcakes without guilt and without complication; you can sing songs without diagnosing your motives and enjoy movies without analyzing society. It is no one’s responsibility to know and understand everything. It is no one’s responsibility to tell you how much fun to have, and if anyone dismisses you for being joyful, childlike, absorbed with some little thing, tell them that the thing is a metaphor. Whether or not it is a metaphor, this thought will occupy them for sometime. Maybe they will come to see that we all deserve to be innocent at least some of the time. Maybe they will come to see that there is a particular grace in delighting in the world as it is.

You are allowed to be a stubborn overthinker and intransigently irreverent, all at the same time, in whatever proportions occur to you. There cannot be too much levity, nor can there be too much solemnity for this world. You do not have to be correct and you do not even have to be Healthy. What if we were all Healthy all of the time? That is the worn-out stuff of dystopian fiction. Do not let people use Healthy to enforce their personal orthodoxies. Do not be cajoled out of the gift of your own perspective. When we try too hard to meet such standards, we fall through some veil: where we had been listening and learning from others, we are flipped into the realm of self-consciousness and often, accidentally, self-obsession.

Here is the truth, anyway: the most honest, comfortable, bright delight shows out from those who have faced the depths. And levity does not preclude solemnity any more than loving someone keeps you from letting them go. Laughter is trust; it is allowing absurdity to have its say; it is surrendering your lungs and your voice to the unexpected. What a relief that there is the unexpected. What a relief to let people be sometimes, even though they are Unhealthy and Wrong. What a relief to let ourselves be, even to let ourselves care too much. How good to give up an obsession with others’ comfort and begin to believe who we are.

If you are too emo, they will call you adolescent. If you enjoy too much silliness, they will call you adolescent. Only to be obsessed with practicalities is considered adult; to forget that great questions, guiding values, joy in small things, the rush of encountering others once occupied your thoughts. Make the time for all of this. Indulge impractical questions about the meaning of things during meetings. And do something utterly outrageous every once in a while—even if it is only to have ice cream for dinner or lay without thinking in the sun, though the world is full of pain. These are all gifts we bring to the world, simply by our being, our encountering. These are how we carry our full selves into the things we do. These are the foolish, earnest love the world so deeply, deeply needs.

Inspired by David’s life and particularly his dance, 2 Samuel 6.

2 comments

Sitting by the water enjoying the sunshine while Matt is out sailing. This post was perfect for such an ocassion. When I was done reading your blog I then read 2 Samuel 6. Great combination. I’m glad you included the scripture reference.

I’m glad you got to do some leisurely reading! I think the best Bible times are often the unplanned, unhurried ones.

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