Ripples #1306: Stubborn Gladness


I feel like if I were to get another tattoo, it would probably be “stubborn, stubborn, stubborn gladness.”
~Elizabeth Gilbert, shared by Leslie in Madison, WI


We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world.
~Jack Gilbert, shared by Andrew in Durham, NC


Today’s quotes were submitted separately, several months a part…and sat in different spots on the same document for quite a while until I recently noticed that I had two quote submissions both using the words “stubborn” and “gladness.” So I put them together and transfered them over to the “paired quotes” document where they patiently waited.

It was only when I stumbled upon a 2013 article in The Atlantic called The ‘Stubborn Gladness’ of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Favorite Poet that I discovered these quotes were related to each other even though their sources (who share the last name of “Gilbert”) were not.

It turns out a random coincidence created an opportunity for writer Elizabeth Gilbert to discover the work of poet Jack Gilbert, who she’s since described as the poet laureate of her life.

The lines in today’s boulder are pulled from the poem A Brief For the Defense that opens with these lines:

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

How’s THAT for depressing?

The poem goes on to make a compelling case that the only way we can possibly survive the awfulness of the world is to savor the awesomeness of the world. It’s not about ignoring the yuck, nor is it about pretending that it doesn’t exist. I don’t even think “stubborn gladdness” is focusing on the good stuff “despite” the presence of bad stuff. It’s recognizing that part of what makes something taste so sweet and yummy is that you’ve known the taste of sour. It’s more of a both/and polarity rather than an either/or choice.

So the other day was my birthday. It’s a day I’ve spent plenty of years alternately ignoring (because of some extreme yucky stuff that happened on my 16th birthday) and celebrating (because yay I made it to today, successfully completing yet another full rotation around the sun).

This year, instead of choosing whether or not to acknowledge it, I tried something a little different: I established the day as a commemoration of the yucky/yummy combo that has been part of my life, and part of life in general. I felt all the feels, I thought all the thoughts, I shed a few tears and I lept for joy. Oh, and I ate some cake, too.

It was a real treat, and it strengthened my Stubborn Gladness.


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