Zadie Smith on Joy


Always worth reading, of course, but here she is getting at something I have been trying to understand.  She calls it joy, which for her is a “strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight.”  I have been calling it “delight” (after Nietzsche).  D&G like jouissance, Hardt and Negri prefer joy as well…. Whatever term we use, it is a feeling, a sentiment, that comes when we do something hard but rewarding.  Not the easy and cheap gratification of ‘pleasure,’ but the down-deep feeling of being awake and alive and in the world.  It is not, as she says, purely a good feeling.  It is mixed with anxiety, fear, and worry.  But it is longer-lasting, slower-burning.  A nutritious meal rather than a piece of candy.

It is the feeling we get, I argue, when we are getting democracy right.  Not the euphoria of Mubarak stepping down or the anguish of the NYPD clearing Zuccotti, but the steady, slow, radiating feeling of being an adult, of coming together with others to take our lives into our own hands.  Joy to the world.


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