At The DISH, we read part of an interview with the poet Christian Wiman, whose work often grapples with doubt and death. He turned his attention to joy and asked: Can one really just decide to be more joyful, though? 

Then he answered his very compelling question:

One aspect of joy is the suspension of will—the obliteration of will, really—though probably there is an element of discipline in being prepared for joy, just as there is in being prepared for poetry. “Iridescent readiness,” W. S. Di Piero calls it.

And there are these lines from Richard Wilbur:

Try to remember this: what you project
Is what you will perceive; what you perceive
With any passion, be it love or terror,
May take on whims and powers of its own.

We thought this image of artist Paul Gauguin playing a harmonium sans pants and shoes was a fine example of “iridescent readiness”. Wonder how it all came about, at the Paris studio of Alphonse Mucha, a Czech Art Nouveau painter, in or around 1895. 

Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin

Top photo via Open Culture

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4 replies on “Can One Decide to Be More Joyful?

  1. I love the photograph! But when I first saw it I thought it was from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

  2. And finally, in response to the question posed in your title, I think we can decide to be ready to be more joyful. Just as one can’t make one’s self more grateful, or contented, or any other desired attitude, by saying “make it so!” However, we can make ourselves ready for it, prepare the soil of the mind, so that we’re able to perceive and appreciate that in the world which is out there ready to make us joyful. It’s a slippery concept to explain, best captured in the old adage that “Luck favors the prepared mind.”

  3. I think she must be pals with Gauguin…or at a least kindred spirit.

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