Joy, in and out of time

by Paul Burmeister

The poet and editor, Christian Wiman, wrote a polyvalent essay on the subject of joy, and it was published in The American Scholar (Autumn 2018.) Titled “Still Wilderness,” the essay references poems and poetry to explore our experiences of joy. Joy is experienced in and out of time, and it is not bound by time. Joy is related to matter and things, and it transcends matter and resists the particular. Joy is ultimately subjective: “the place that is most us, yet remains beyond us.”
Wiman argues for the essential or ontological quality of joy as part of our being. He is honest (albeit briefly) about joy’s relationship to suffering. He speaks for the importance of joy to the artist / poet. And, he finds a utility for joy in its accompanying motivation for compassion. A shorthand version of his essay might be contained in his closing sentences. He writes that we ought to “be fit” to feel the moments of joy when they come and to “let joy carry us where it will.”