“And yes I said yes I will Yes.” —last line of James Joyce’s Ulysses
“Oh, yeah!” — Louis Armstrong’s signature ending to a song
Life is nasty, short and brutish, intolerable, incomprehensible, one catastrophe after another —and yet glorious. What other choice do we have than to wholly affirm it, embrace it, greet it with an all-encompassing “Yes!” Easy enough when things are going well, supremely difficult when they’re not. But even in the midst of all the death and destruction and depression and disappointment, there are yes’s to be found and sung and savored and shouted out. Like being on stage playing music with 7thgraders yesterday, wholly in the groove, the music swingin’ and joy abundant in the air made more joyful from the fact of the children’s exuberant yes to their own musical promise, their own needed expression, their own connection with each other as they reaped the harvest of months of hard work.
We in this culture like to think of 7th graders as sullen eye-rolling pimply sub-humans who none of us would ever willingly choose to hang out with, but here they were proclaiming, “Listen to us! We’re putting ourselves out there and we also have hope and joy and powerful feelings and tender vulnerabilities. Check it out!”
Sometimes I treat myself to a “Yes!” day, shut down the voices trying to convince me the world and its people and my own little life is nothing more than dogshit on my shoe. I walk the streets with a hearty “Yes!” to whatever comes my way, meet the day with the whole of my joy, my love, my sense of humor— and lo and behold, the world responds and suddenly feels five shades brighter and more colorful.
On another day, I give myself a “No!” day, not the kind that refuses hope or my own promise, but the kind that says no to everything trying to distract me, to bring me down, to discourage happiness. No to compliance with bullshit, no to hiding that which deserves to be seen, no to the Siren lure of the phone or screen. No to each and every ism, no to each and every publicly broadcast lie, the no that draws the line and says, “This is where it stops. No, you will not step over and keep the hatred going.”
And so I pass my days, bouncing between the worlds of Yes and No. Which are you today?