Dearest Odd Readers,
This marks the final issue of the year and what a crazy, fun, complex and painful year it has been. We, at the Odd team, would like to thank you all for your ever present and ongoing support of our Magazine. Because without all the contributors, guest editors, resident writers and readers, Odd would not be the magazine that it has become. With this, I welcome the (hopefully) joyous end of 2021 and the new beginnings of 2022. May it be a joyous festive season and as always, may your creative spirits, the spaces where your stories live and breathe, never seize to exist.
by Ali Ridha Khan
When asked to write about the subject of Joy I first had to ask how joy distinguishes itself from happiness? For happiness is my subject of interest, or rather political happiness, as I’ve come to call it. Much can be said about how joy distinguishes itself from pleasure too, how happiness is different from pleasure, and how each are neither polarizing concepts nor have a polar opposite.
For now, I will focus only on the distinction between happiness and joy. Within the domain of emotion and affect, happiness has carried many meanings to scholars and thinkers alike. Joy, or the image of joy, at least through a literary contribution, that permeates my mind is that of the Dalai Lamas’ Book of Joy – for many years it has served as a faceplate to start to consider joy distinguished from happiness. I intend to use this editorial note to comment on what joy means, to ask what joy looks like and why it means more than happiness, that the pursuit of the commons is the pursuit of joy rather than the pursuit of happiness.
Synonymous with Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the American Declaration of Independence “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” permit me to assume that America’s culture of violence and hegemony permeates further than we are allowed to consent to, more than we are conscious of at times. It is as Hannah Arendt reminds us that the “pursuit of happiness” is a “considerably meaningless phrase”, she goes on to quote Howard Mumford Jones who states the pursuit of happiness is to pursue a “ghastly privilege of pursuing a phantom and embracing a delusion”. That happiness is an elusive concept, state and, if anything, a fool’s errand. It is this great delusion that from the perspectives of governmentality, to include the modern state, that the State makes a commitment to both public and private aspects of happiness – all of which Arendt is aware of.
For Arendt, Thomas Jefferson’s invocation of happiness correlates to pre-revolutionary sentiments to share in the affairs of the government and the power that comes with state making – this is what we call public happiness. To be short and avoid technicality, pre-revolutionary sentiment expresses the privilege of being able to define what happiness is and what it looks like, albeit during the state-making. Happiness for the Founding Fathers was never intended to be realized as a public affair, it is as John Randolph remarks “return[ing] to the happy period when…I may withdraw myself totally from the public eye”, public happiness is simply the enjoyment of private rights, private property and the absolvent of responsibility to the commons. The practice of one of history’s most well-known phrases is that it is a practice of a desire to exist separately without proper consideration for public life or the common person, a suggestion of a dream that anyone can realize this so-called dream. Is the pursuit of happiness truly the pursuit of Capital? Dead white men, such as Jefferson, should stay dead while pursuing their ghastly delusion of a public happiness. The implication of the beaten and battered ‘pursuit of happiness’ implores an inherent pursuit of Capital. We implore our people not to be vexed by the pursuit of happiness which is simply the adherence to competition underpinned by work and labor.
To pursue true happiness, which is joy, starts when the wiser of our collective start to dance on the graves of dead white men embracing the delusion that they are not in fact “Founding Fathers” (instead recognize them as settler-colonists), that their culture remains dominant, that they are in fact a recessive class of charlatans that will slowly wield no hold over the global imagination. To dance, to play, to enjoy the latter is the practice of joy. To recognize delusion is to escape the trappings of the rose-colored glasses that capital has set out for us, hindering our sensory inclination for joy. It is to practice public joy together, to dance, to engage and to encourage joy as a public affair which celebrates togetherness. That the period of joy is, or a joyful period, is not as Randolph suggests as one relegated to the private- separate. That joy comes from encouraging the public and sharing the commons in whole. Joy is the sentiment of the spirit of generosity and the character of revolution that cannot be distilled from self-help books or green juice popularized by your local yogi, that again is the trappings of capital deluding you of joy. Joy is the greeting of your friends, family members and the person you’ll never know with a “hi, hello, salaam, aweh!”, it’s the smile you share with someone, and the willingness to volunteer – it’s the immaterial that happiness and its’ handler capitalism could not hope to codify in a spreadsheet. It is the immaterial, the ineffable, the arts and our togetherness that breeds joy into the fold of social. Joy is the character that inhabits a certain spirt of freedom that the pursuit of happiness at its height could not hope to fathom.
Ali Ridha Khan is a fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research and a Student at the University of the Western Cape. Ali Ridha’s work focuses on Happiness and Aesthetics occasionally dabbling in film.
In this Issue:
11– Sisanda Kubeka
EPCOT– Singular Poet
Joy Tied– Kelli Lage
Joy is a Sparrow Song– Emalisa Rose
Saturn of Stillness- Andrea Frisby
What a Wonderful time of the Year– Alun Robert
The Joy of Stealing Mulberries- Zahirra Dayal
A Forest- Radiyah Manjoo
Rosebank Cinema Nouveau: The Lodestar in Johannesburg’s Cultural Imagination– Lumkile Nkomfe
Kasi Games– Ogorogile Nong