Maurice in the Kingdom of Joy.

He’s made it to jouissance. Such honey! and it’s true, not only are we allowed to enter this kingdom, we can be a part of it’s making. He seems so sure of himself, so solidly planted into this world, “I’m no longer doubtful of what I’m livin’ for” sings Aretha. “And I to love, and you to be loved, we have both kept the jeweled prize always at our fingertips, we will it so, and so it is past all accident…” says Wm. Carlos Williams. “Oh! Anyone can see how I love the world at last, how I love myself at last, singing in a heaven of appetite” rhapsodizes Mary Oliver. Yes, we are creatures with appetites, complex creatures who live in a sea of language striving for meaning, as Merleau-Ponty points out, “…in the concert hall, I open my eyes, visible space seems cramped compared to that other space, through which, a moment ago, music was being unfolded…”

Maurice Steps Into the Kingdom of Joy, litho, monoprint 1984 2022

Such happiness is so easy to scoff at in this age of occupation, because the US has been under an occupation of this currant, peculiar, anti-democratic ubiquity of lawlessness. It dominates the information highway, and at a crucial time when we need all our energies to combat the destructive forces of income inequality, property inequality, a planet in existential crisis. We know, we truly know, that joy, joie-de-vivre, is the fuel that drives the engine of change. All of this meander of thinking backgrounded with the red rage we feel at the theft of what we hold dear. Here’s an excerpt of Mary Oliver’s poem Tecumseh…how quickly Jouissance can change to something like la Terreur of the French Revolution of 1793.

"...His name meant Shooting Star.
From Mad River country north to the border
he gathered the tribes
and armed them one more time. He vowed
to keep Ohio and it took him
over twenty years to fail.

After the bloody and final fighting, at Thames,
it was over, except
his body could not be found,
and you can do whatever you want with that, say

his people came in the black leaves of the night
and hauled him to a secret grave, or that
he turned into a little boy again, and leaped
into a birch canoe and went
rowing home down the rivers. Anyway
this much I'm sure of: if we meet him, we'll know it,
he will still be
so angry.”


Chief Tecumseh
How quickly does jouissance change until we have parades of heads on pikes as the January 6 hearings are showing us. Mike Pence wonders this as does Adam Gopnick in The New Yorker, “our democracy having come one marginally resolute Indiana politician away from failure”.

So with this feeling in mind we can turn to the idea of anger over what we have lost, but as Judith and I say in our many talks on the horror of marine-born plastic, “Remember, it was not bombs and bullets that took down the Berlin Wall and with it the “Iron Curtain”…it was simply blue jeans and Rock n’ Roll, joie de vivre and style. Visiting Berlin, as I did in 1966, you could stand on one of the viewing stations set up by the US and look into East Berlin that was still a bleak ruin 20 years after the war. As I stood, I remember seeing an ancient Mercedes pulled through the rubble hitched to a horse. A HORSE! While at my back was the roaringest fun-fest of a rising democracy in full swing. I witnessed a well-executed QED of just how just effective this joie de vivre and style was; we like to dance to this music born in Africa and we like to look like we are dressed up just FOR that fun. A revolution based on true joy.

Then comes the problem of righteous rage that can fuel arousal (a different brand of jouissance) like when we hear on the news such and such has happened and one is infuriated, wrath being one of the seven deadly sins keeping us glued to the punditry, that in turn, amps up the volume. “He did WHAT?…” Time and time again we have been suckered into paying attention to a malignant narcissist when all he craves is our eyeballs, he gives us nothing. So here we come to the problem of addiction and the solution to that problem. Every addict I know who has successfully broken the bonds, has done it with true joie de vivre, with Art or work or study or family and connection. Get with “the program” as they say in AA. This particular and peculiar form of jouissance, this thrill at righteous indignation, can result in a TEREUR the likes of which were seen in the French Revolution in 1793 when 16 thousand heads rolled off the guillotine, and what we saw January 6, 2021. Those poor folks facing jail time for feeling the jouissance of changing election results.

So, party people, party on, but please, let’s have a party to save the Planet. Hey! It’ll be fun, or as David Brower (founder of the Sierra Club) reminded us so many years ago, “If you are not having fun saving the Planet you’ll just depress yourself. This is Maurice Marleau-Ponty’s Eco-phenomonology in action. Here’s a book on the subject.

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