Nature has conspired to create a real break for me from anything that can make me feel restless. There was a massive hailstorm in our area on Saturday and now the Internet is out. I can only access it when I’m around public wi-fi, like right now.
When I was thinking about the next post in this series, the following old joke was coming to mind. A Russian nouveau riche brings Christmas lights to a store and says, “They are broken, I want to return them.”
“What’s wrong with them?” the shop assistant asks.
“They light up, they are bright, they are pretty,” the nouveau riche says. “But they bring no joy.”
In college, I discovered that intellectual growth brought unrivaled, almost physiological pleasure. In the undergrad years, I had a calendar where I crossed out the days left until the end of holidays because all I wanted to be back in class.
And these days, I have books, I’m enormously better equipped to do my own research, I have a lot more time to dedicate to intellectual growth, but the joy is elusive.
One reason why joy has left the building is that academia is very depressive. Even the best among us sigh more than they speak and find joy exclusively in swapping worst-case scenarios.
Another reason is that experiencing life as joyful is incredibly much harder in tiny towns than in big cities. Nobody makes an effort to live beautifully, and that takes all joy out of existence.
Every once in a while, I do manage to recreate a distant glimmer of the enthusiasm and happiness I felt at a library or with a book in my hands 15 years ago. But turning this into a permanent state of being is still a project in its early stages.