The summer was spent in the city. There was no travel outside of the metro area as work and finances kept me at home. A planned trip to see the Perseid was tanked and seeing my family was constantly waylaid. I had many days where I thought of how beautiful it would be to get back to big skies or see waterfalls, but the opportunity was not there. It felt like the world moved and I floundered. It did not seem like the summer at all.
Now in the closing days of August, I can at least get into a muck sweat. The city is having real summer weather and with that I can walk outside and look at the place that I love more than any other. When I am out on the streets, it is there it hits me….there must be that which is called a prevenient joy, a joy that comes from outside oneself that makes it possible to have the thing. I wish I could take credit for the thought, but it actually belongs to Marilynne Robinson who speaks of the courage that precedes all other courage, the one that makes it possible to love. (Love is indeed a very courageous act.) Before Robinson there was St. Augustine who started the whole business with prevenient grace.
I walk outside and look for people who are laughing. If I see one, I think this makes for balance. At least I have compensation that I am not doing this. If I see two, all the better. In my utilitarian nature I tell myself this creates more than balance, it creates a greater good. At those moments, my lack of the joy of summer does not seem so bad and when it does, I know it is because I am selfish and I deserve the thing.
Most often I am not selfish. Those laughing people may very well one day have summers without joy. I hope when they do they can delight in the joy of others. Of all the gifts I am vested with, that is the best. I have had my summers and I take joy that others at this moment are having theirs. This is the part that is prevenient, for this joy does not touch me personally, but I experience a certain sense of a greater joy because of it, a joy that is outside of me.
The other day a colleague asked if I was happy with my work. Maybe he asked if I was satisfied; I do not recall. He asked if I enjoyed it like I did teaching. I replied I found a different sort of satisfaction in it. What I mean is I fulfill a necessary role and one that I am best qualified to do. I may not be entirely happy with it, but that it is necessary to that place that makes me love the city more than anything else makes me love it….in that there is joy even if a certain happiness is lacking. That too is a prevenient joy.
I wish I could have travelled this summer. I jokingly keep telling myself if I don’t take vacation soon, I will keel over and die, then I jokingly think I don’t have time for that as if it were my choice to begin with. My “life may be required of me today,” I do understand this. Now that is a sobering thought, but it is one we are all best to live with. I think of it with an increased constancy. It is why I labor so hard to get what I do known to others that they may be good to the place I love if I am not there to be good to it. It is also what keeps me from travel, though and makes me think the thing is selfish.
I will soon be selfish, however as I make my way away from the city. I simply cannot be good to the place I love if I do not drive off somewhere. I am a little afraid that such a trip will produce little in me. I am afraid I will come back no more joyous than when I left. This makes me over think where I should go and who I should see. Then I think it is no matter for I will return to a place that gives me joy and prevenient joy. I think if I can see that my travel will be worth it.
Everyone must go out into the world if only to return to the place they love….the place called home.