When Sr. Simone Campbell was interviewed by Krista Tippett for “On Being,” (https://onbeing.org/programs/simone-campbell-how-to-be-spiritually-bold) the executive director for Network was characteristically upbeat. She laughed with great pleasure at how her organization was a tiny, unpublicized, low budget group until the Vatican condemned them. “We only had nine full time staff at the time and we made the whole Vatican nervous?”
Presto Bongo! Instant Free Publicity! The impetus from that buzz of press may have helped them launch the famous project Nuns on the Bus.
Sister Simone could laugh about that, too. After many battles with Paul Ryan over fair wages and justice to the poor, she said how “sweet” that he once defended her. Another congressman said she shouldn’t be believed because she was censured by the Vatican. “Sister Simone is well within the teaching of the Church,” Ryan replied. The ability to laugh at human folly and appreciate the decency of one’s foes has probably preserved Campbell’s sanity through a busy, arduous career.
She does, however, criticize “grim liberals.” “You could offer a bunch of lamentation, but lamentation doesn’t often help…. what gift do you have to offer to this situation? Who can you connect with? Now, the other piece I haven’t really talked about— but I goof off a lot — is joy. That joy is at the heart of this journey. And if we — too often, progressives are really grim. I mean, it’s not a very good advertisement. ‘Come join us. We’re so miserable.’”
How easy it is to fall into that trap, when so many good causes deserve our earnest attention. And how do we avoid becoming what Yeats criticized in “A Prayer for My Daughter” as “an old bellows full of angry wind”?
We might all think about where we find delight—and how much time we spend there. Each one will answer that question differently, but one irreverent example is my Zumba class. I’m often the oldest there, often the only Caucasian, but this U.N. of exercise is marvelous to behold. The music blasts at ear-splitting levels while mostly women of various ages and sizes dance with wild abandon. Some wear abundant bling; others dress in clashing neon shades of lime and purple.
But the bottom line is, we’re all happy to be there. We may not articulate it, but we could be across the street in the quiet, antiseptic hospital, contending with hip surgery or heart attacks. What a marvelous gift to have bodies that dance, not always gracefully or in rhythm, but with energy and co-ordination!
Zumba isn’t everyone’s cuppa. But to continue the good fight, we must all find our places of delight. Is it nature, poetry, music, humor, children, novels, movies, friends, meditation, art? Where do we find the deep pleasure, and just as important, how much time have we spent there recently?