Problem with April Fool’s in Alabama: No matter what absurd, off-putting, nerve-wracking junk you might crank out as a finely-honed joke, it’s probably already happened. Probably in Montgomery. Certainly in campaign ads.
Happy thankful day, everyone!
And no, that’s not a late April 1st joke. I can abide by rules. Some, anyway.
As glooms of winter recede with each passing tornado warning, ushering in our rare, beloved spring days — we’ve had two already, so that’s about it for 2022 — I’ve decided it’s time to express gratitude, and thus invite joy right into my life
Joy! You’re welcome! Take y’ shoes off, come on ‘n’ set a spell.
Sorry, I tried. Can’t even type with a Southern accent.
Expressing gratitude, I keep reading, will open yourself up to joy.
Casandra Brené Brown — mildly ominous, if you know the Cassandra, two Ss, of ancient Greek mythology — is apparently the new social sciences Dolly Parton, Mr. Rogers and Oprah rolled into one, judging by how often friends quote her work.
I say new, but the TED Talk that launched Brown — “The Power of Vulnerability” — from academician to pop-culture phenom came out a dozen years ago. Since then, she’s written six best-sellers, hosted two podcasts, and filmed one of her lectures on Ella for Netflix.
The latter, titled “Brené Brown: The Call to Courage,” which my company’s flagship paper USA Today called “… a mix of a motivational speech and stand-up comedy special,” stresses courage over comfort, and suggests that to be brave leaves one exposed. And vulnerable? Not a bad thing. necessary.
Anesthetizing ourselves to tough times, harder moments and harsher emotions can deaden pleasure centers as well, she says. Numbtown, all the way down.
Envelope-pushing and boundary-testing leads — based on her studies as professor at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work — to deeper love, joy and belonging, drawing us not only closer to others, but to ourselves.
Don’t know about y’all, but I’m so close I’m practically behind me.
In a 2018 interview I’ve found, she quotes a Jesuit priest …. OK, so here’s where Skeptical intrudes. Brown doesn’t quote the person by name. That’s a no-no, in print and academia. Sometimes all a writer gets is credit, and not the kind that helps you buy cars or houses, but simple acknowledgment. Why do I write under my full name? Because it’s easier to remember.
The guy she seems to be paraphrasing is a Benedictine monk, David Steindl-Rast, who likes to muck around—scientific term—in the Venn overlaps between science and spirituality. Among his 13 books by him is 1984’s “Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness,” in which he wrote words Brown was recalling: “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
Brown failed to give proper credit, and got a word or two wrong, here and there. Though I’m no longer married to a Catholic, I don’t think a Benedictine monk can also be a Jesuit. They’re both monastic orders, dedicated to education, amongst their many weapons, but they are not the same. So even the vague attribution failed.
I’m grateful for teachers, editors and fellow writers — including the inborn ones who bounce around my brain, arguing with all the other voices — who’ve pushed me to become persnickety about precision. I’m grateful for the gift of doubt, which makes me follow up, spiral down rabbit holes of information, and not simply trust a person to be correct because he/she/they may have been right about other things.
One of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in recent years, Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” a powerful updating and claim of the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents groundbreaker, suffered from a hideously miscast lead, as Tony. This shuffling blandness stands out all the more in contrast to the rippling, vivid work of Ariana DeBose (who rightfully won an Oscar) as Anita, new kid Rachel Zegner as Maria, David Alvarez as a fiery Bernardo, and Mike Faist as Riff, who Despite singing and dancing like the musical theater star he is, gave such a lean, hungry performance that his bursts into song and dance startedled. In a perfect world — or just a better world — he’d have played Tony. They could have moved one of the capable Jets up to Riff.
Point is, even a team comprising Spielberg, Sondheim, Bernstein, Laurents and Tony Kushner, who among them could melt down enough trophies to finance another 10 musicals, can suffer flaws.
I’m grateful for that movie, still, soft boy and all.
hmm. I may have derailed the premise. Still, I’m grateful, sometimes, for my scattered brain, as it fuels journeys, which can lead to discovery.
Fine choice for Ms. Brown, not going by Casandra/Cassandra, as that Trojan priestess of Apollo labored under a curse: She could speak only truth, but no one would believe.
When you’re shaking your hands, heads or other vital parts in rage or frustration, wanting to cry “I told you so!,” at an outcome that seemed to you to be wildly obvious, you’re so Cassandra. Though it’s not commonly used nowadays, when being disbelieved, you might just be suffering a Cassandra Complex.
As in while our world continues to melt and warp, climate-change scientists suffer a series of cascading Cassandra Complexes. Possibly, as they’ve seen this tipping point coming for decades, maybe they pooled together that huge research money (You know, the money They don’t want you to know about; the Big Science dollars that somehow out-purchase the multi- trillion-dollar worldwide oil industry) and carved out a chunk of land in Antarctica. It’ll be beachfront soon enough.
Brown seems to have found her niche, though whether people are actually following the advice or not is still up in the air. Once in a while, I’ll see a pal posting a list of happy thoughts, things they’re grateful for, and expressing the sentiment that yeah, this feels all right all right all right.
I’m grateful for the life’s work of writer Terry Pratchett, who summed up the Cassandra Complex thusly: “The trouble was that he was talking in philosophy, but they were listening in gibberish.”
Pratchett also aptly captured the spirit of my ongoing quest for bliss, delight, elation and exultation: “… there was something about his expression, as of a rat who was expecting cheese right around the next corner, and had been expecting cheese around the last corner too, and the corner before that, and, although the world has turned out so far to be full of corners yet completely innocent of any cheese at all, was nevertheless quite certain that, just around the corner, cheese awaited.”
I’m grateful for a mind that can contain more than one concern at a time. Once again, for my fellow social mediaians … -ites … mediators …. Meteors!:
More than one thought can take hold in even the average human brain. So violence against an artist, against a country, against a constitution, against a climate, and etc. and so on, can all be ongoing concerns.
I am grateful for the continued deployment of complexity.
hmm. Still sounds a bit snarky.
Here’s an actual joyful thing: My cousin Carl and Uncle Fred came into town last week, to see my mom, Fred’s sibling. Though they’ve got Dreamland in Montgomery, the Hugheses — that’s where I got my middle name — agreed they’d like to chew into some ribs. As we polished off banana pudding for dessert, hosed down excess sauce, began the wallet fumble, our sweet server said:
“Oh, it’s taken care of…. Someone picked up your check.”
Whoever you may be, thank you, from the heart of my bottom. Seriously, thanks to all reflexively kind people. You not only made us smile, you stirred up a new family mystery.
And at least for a while, you restored my faith humanity.
I’m grateful to be wrong about skepticism.
Reach Tusk Editor Mark Hughes Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 205-722-0201.