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Acts of Joy

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Acts of Joy

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Big Joy Science Project

Inciting Joy: A Poet’s Perspective

with Ross Gay

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What you'll learn

  • Discover how holding each other in our common experience of sorrow as human beings can be a profound gateway to a full experience of joy
  • Reflect on why joy matters and is essential to prioritize in our modern world — especially  in the face of the suffering, injustice, and hardships that surround us.
  • Explore how to practice interconnectedness, joy, and gratitude, and hear Ross read from his new collection of essays — Inciting Joy.

About the speakers

Ross Gay

Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released in 2019 and was a New York Times best-seller. His new collection of essays, Inciting Joy, will be released by Algonquin in October of 2022.

Lucas Johnson, MDiv

Lucas Johnson, MDiv, is Executive Vice President, Public Life & Social Healing for the On Being Project. He has deep, global experience in conflict resolution and community organizing. He has been shaped by his time learning from veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., most closely Vincent Harding and Dorothy Cotton, and by his work with human rights activists around the world, especially in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. For six years, Lucas was a leader in the U.S. community of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), the world’s oldest interfaith peace organization — based in Atlanta and focused on the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. From 2014 until he joined the On Being Project in December, 2018, he served as General Secretary of IFOR’s global operation. He incubated a Beloved Communities Project in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium; and helped to create an Ethics of Reciprocity initiative with the United Nations. Lucas studied at Mercer University and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He was born in Germany in a military family, grew up in Georgia (U.S.), and now resides between Amsterdam and the United States.

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  • Thank you, both! I agree that gratitude and joy are interconnected like we are all together as we celebrate joy and be with each other in sorrow as well.

  • I love the idea that meaning is derived from connection vs having something/someone to fight against. As a child of the ’60’s it seemed there was so much to fight, to rail against, to try to make meaningful changes to our system. That propelled me for many years throughout my life. As I reflect back on my life though, what is truly meaningful – what feels like success to me – are the connections I made and continue to make over the years.

  • I am stunned by Lucas Johnson, I got a glimpse of the future for our world with this man on the planet. I am almost speechlessly amazed…what a bright light.

  • Thank you both for a luminous and inspiring conversation. Love and joy in all your being and sharing your life’s work. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Both of these men have opened my heart. Have made joy visible and heart felt.
    Have helped me to see that joy is a valuable and necessary and unselfish gift to be felt and shared.
    Inseparable from the heartbreaks of being human

    Thank you so much

  • Reminds of the definition of Pronoia – that all of creation is conspiring to shower you with blessings.. with gratitude and joy, I am saying thank you.

  • Thank you for this conversation. I hope to experience it one more. There is so much good in it. It is nice to meet Lucas and 👏🏽 already a Ross Gay Fan – @sourcebooksellers

  • Joy as “what it is that emanates from the tethers between us when we hold each other through our sorrow.” Wow. What a deep conversation with art and poetry in both the question asking and deep understandings shared. Thank you Lucas and Ross for sharing this with us all. There is something about the sharing of deep truths through apt words that touches me in a different way from just the deep truths themselves. Thank you!

  • Thank you, guys. You nailed it. Takeaways for me: Sorrow enriches connection and therefore joy; Joy (connection) can be enhanced with practice; We are always in the midst of it. Not bad for forty minutes! Thanks again.

  • Thank you so much for this conversation! You’ve both given me so much to think about and reflect on – delighting and inspiring me. Thank you both for your offerings.

  • You both bring me joy ! I had to take notes …. Tomorrow morning I facilitate a mindfulness group. Joy and Sorrow will be there ! 🙏🤗
    Thank you !

  • What a lovely, beautiful interview! So moved by you both and so grateful for the the opportunity to see you articulate this connection we all have with everything and everyone. Loved this! And deep gratitude to you both.

  • I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy this conversation with you two beautiful souls! Thank you! I am full of joy right now, can’t stop smiling!!

  • I loved this entire conversation – this jumped out at me regarding joy and practice: “the practice of our being beholden to one another” – beautiful words, Ross! Lucas, thank you for also pointing out that when you experience joy by yourself, you want to share it with others. And thank you both for bringing to light the power of connection and relationship that suffering/sorrow can bring. I was so happy to see that a poet was chosen to be a part of this summit! Thank you so much to both of you for this wonderful conversation and for each of your offerings to humanity and life on earth.

  • enjoyed this conversation so much, the connection and encounter between them was really unique. loved the poem. I am in joy with the trees and grass, in connection with them in relation to them, it is part of my essence.

  • What a brilliant conversation. I felt moved by a part of myself that I didn’t have access to before. I love the notion that joy and suffering are two sides of a coin and one is inherently laced around the other. I also loved the distinction between joy and delight, yes, I see that. Beautiful dialogue, thank you both.

  • Thank you two for existing! Would love it if we all had the dexterity (and discipline) to explore our pain and our joy like this.

  • I am not even halfway thru this video and have to comment … The beautiful, gentle, genuine smiles of these two men are blowing me away. Not to belittle the words – the words are great too. But the smiles are filling my heart – ineffable expressions of gentle joy, underscoring the dialogue, that I will take away with me long after the words are forgotten. Thank you.

  • Oh my … my heart and my whole being is thrumming with untold threads of joyful connections through the smiles of these two souls … deepest gratitude ❤️

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