Though You Have Considered The Facts

“I have one more question,” she said. “What does the quote on your fridge mean?” It’s a common question really, for quite a few of our Barr Camp visitors are intrigued by the simple sign hanging silently on our refrigerator door. The quote that she was referring to, and others so often ask about, comes from Wendell Berry.

“Be joyful though you have considered the facts,” it says.

The direct quote from Berry is, “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts,” but ours drops the “all.” It generates quite a bit of discussion at Barr Camp. I think people are intrigued by it because it seems a bit radical. In a world in which peoples’ emotions tend to be very circumstantial, Berry’s quote bucks the status quo. He doesn’t say to consider all the facts and then be joyful if they are good. No, he says to consider the facts and be joyful. End of story.

“Be joyful though you have considered the facts.”

“I think it means that joy is a choice,” I said to the woman. “That things aren’t always good but we can still choose to be joyful.” It was my current understanding of the quote and something I tried to practice. Barr Camp, of course, provided me with ample opportunities. At the end of a long, hard day’s work with a mountain of dishes between me and an evening training session that would inevitably go well into the night…

“Be joyful though you have considered the facts.”

With time I really started to embrace the idea. I saw it not only as a good philosophy for life, but more specifically for my athletic endeavors. With UTMB looming, I sought to apply this joyful concept to my training. I figured that in a 100-plus-mile race, there would almost certainly be times when the facts would not be suggestive of joy. But, with a finish line miles away and the next step before me, I would have the option to…

“Be joyful though you have considered the facts.”

And so I practiced it in my training. Climbing up Longs Ranch Road on tired legs and a body on the verge of a massive bonk. Look up, admire the beauty of the forest, and savor the moment…

“Be joyful though you have considered the facts.”

Kneeling by the creek and dousing myself in its icy-cold waters because it’s about all I could do to try to revive myself after running out of calories and bonking hard on the way back from Mount Rosa. Savor the moment. Embrace the pain, the challenge, and the thrill that it brings…

“Be joyful though you have considered the facts.”

Running through the forest amidst an icy rain. The mountain was still beautiful. Running was still fun and a beautiful gift…

“Be joyful, though you have considered the facts.”

Yet, as much as I enjoyed seeking joy in the midst of hardship, I wondered if my interpretation of Berry’s words was correct. So I started to do a bit of research on the concept of joy and came across the following explanation by Rick Warren: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” Now Warren obviously has an understanding of joy that is rooted deeply in his faith. But faith aside, Warren makes an interesting point. He suggests that joy is not so circumstantial. It’s not rooted in things going our way, nor is it dependent upon us to ignore the hardships and difficulties that we face. It’s not a denial of our current circumstances, but an understanding of a greater good that surpasses our current situation.

Joy stands not so much in the midst of something, or in spite of something, but above it. It is its own thing. Not dependent on anything or anyone. Joy stands alone. This thought is in great support of Berry’s quote because it acknowledges that joy isn’t dependent on the facts. Sure, we do have the option of whether or not to act joyfully, but the joy itself is always present. This is why we can choose to…

“Be joyful, though you have considered the facts.”

For no matter how bleak, the facts can’t drown out our overlying joy. As I look forward to UTMB, I take comfort in this concept. I am well aware that the race may take me to some of the lowest points of my life, but no matter the depth of the lows, I can always seek out joy. For though the facts may suggest otherwise, I can face them head on, not in ignorance, but in the belief of a joy that can’t be denied. And so, stride by stride, climb by climb, and mountain after mountain, it is my goal to “Be joyful, though [I] have considered the facts.”

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you choose joy even though you have considered the facts?
  • Does joy come naturally for you, or do you have to actively cultivate it at least some of the time?
  • Do the origins of your joy depend on the situation?

Be Joyful

Being Joyful

Zach Miller

is a mountain runner and full time caretaker at Barr Camp in Colorado. As caretaker, he lives year round in an off-the-grid cabin halfway up Pikes Peak. He competes for The North Face and Team Colorado. Additional sponsors/supporters include Clean-N-Jerky, GU Energy Labs, and Nathan Sports. Follow him on Instagram.

There are 29 comments

  1. Cory

    Oh Zack, what a powerful reminder to all, both to we who choose to suffer along the trails and over the inspiring miles and mountains but also to all who simply enter into suffering along the trials of circumstance which life inevitably brings. St James, one of the great thinkers of old, and a marvelous minister to a broken and hurting world, stated: “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Of course, the object of our faith plays a role, and is for another discussion platform, but the quote you offer at least eludes to it – consider the facts, or namely the truth. The challenge is to think well about ourselves, our circumstances, and life, and to enter into the right perspective, namely the one which allows us to chose joy. Of course this seems easier for we who live in privilege conditions, but many who have experienced horrific conditions or circumstances have been able to find strength and chose joy as well. It’s possible…for anyone.

    This year at Hardrock, as I left Telluride and the comforts of aid and family, my heart became overwhelmed as I climbed toward Virginius. My legs were ok, by body in check, but still I felt so discouraged…allowing myself to hold a pity party and convincing myself that I wanted to drop. Runner after runner passed by. My time goal for arriving in Ouray passed by as well. I wanted out. BUT, a wise and experienced Hardrock veteran came slowly but steadily up the trail and said, “What an enormous privilege it is that we get to be here, right now, along this particular trail and in this particular event. Tens of thousands of people wish they were here, in our shoes.”

    And at that very moment, it clicked. I made the decision to consider the facts, those so wonderfully expressed by this veteran Hardrocker but also the fact of my poor attitude. And I confessed my poor attitude, asked God for strength, and gave thanks for the privilege to participate. I began to practice gratitude, and inexplicably, joy overcame me and filled my heart, and I suddenly experienced a fresh energy and was able accept the loss of my initial hopes for the run and reset my goals. For the remainder of the run, regardless of my outer circumstance, inwardly I felt joy.

    Thank you for reminding us all to chose joy, Zack, and to consider what is true and real – things like love, beauty, forgiveness, grace and mercy. These are very real and anyone can chose them or deny them, and through this article, you have encouraged us to chose wisely. Thank you.

  2. Sabrina Little

    I absolutely love this (and Wendell Berry). My track team says “choose joy” to each other in practice every day, not because we’re oblivious to the hard things but because we understand the goodness beyond the hard things. Thanks, Zach!

    1. Zach Miller

      You are quite welcome Sabrina! I think it’s cool that your team says that every day at practice. Must be a special team!

      – Zach

  3. Trevor

    Thank you for this. I worked with a woman who was diagnosed with ALS, and yet was remarkably steadfast and cheerful showing up everyday. I remember her saying, “Every morning I wake up and I choose to be happy,”– thinking of happiness as a choice we make has certainly stuck with me, because I hadn’t previously really considered it quite like that before. Happiness was something ‘passive’ that ‘happens’ to you. Rather, joy very much requires we take an active role. I think her of every day when I run.

    1. Zach Miller

      You’re welcome Trevor! I’m glad you were able to relate this to something in your own life. Happy running and finding of joy!

      – Zach

  4. Nelson

    Thanks, Zach. I think we have to be joyful, and thankful, every time we are able to head out the door for a run. Because there are no guarantees we will ever have that opportunity again.

  5. doug k

    Thanks Zach, that is a great quote – noted..

    I can’t remember joy. I do work on staying hopeful..

    Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or
    willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.
    Vaclav Havel

    From a book on wilderness survival by Laurence Gonzalez: “The plan, a memory of the future, tries on reality to see if it fits.”
    Despair is a form of certainty, certainty that the future will be a lot like the present or will decline from it; despair is a confident memory of the future, in Gonzalez’s resonant phrase. Optimism is similarly confident about what will happen. Both are grounds for not acting. Hope can be the knowledge that we don’t have that memory and that reality doesn’t necessarily match our plans; hope like creative ability can come from what the Romantic poet John Keats called Negative Capability.
    Rebecca Solnit, in the New Yorker.

    One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed in order to persevere.
    William the Silent.

  6. Mike

    Great stuff Zach. I’ve discovered over time that the way to have joy is to practice thankfulness. When we are facing difficult circumstances often the last thing we want to do is practice thankfulness but I’ve found that even in hardship thankfulness produces joy.

  7. Steady Eddie Terranova

    Right on the money Zach!

    “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” -Brother David Steindl-Rast

  8. Loubrenner

    As I laid awake unable to sleep prior to the LT100 I read this wonderful article. I used your quote numerous times during race and felt it was quite benificial. Thanks for your writing. Keep it up.

  9. Eric North

    Huge fan of Wendell Berry, Zach!

    Those exact words have run through my mind on many a difficult slog through the mountains. Thanks for the good words.

  10. Dominic

    This puts into words concepts that have been rambling in my mind for a long time. Thank you for this! I’ll keep it around for the hardships.

  11. Deb Danger

    Thanks for this. When I visited Barr Camp on my run the other week I was so awestruck by the experience of running Barr Trail/Colorado Mountains in general that I neglected to take notice of the fridge :(. I also couldn’t believe there was a place you could walk into totally disgusting from sweat and have someone treat you like your not gross and going to rob them (sorry Im from DC where the sweaty people thing is not a “thing”).

    As a person who has grown up/lived in an intense city most of her life, I can say the DC atmosphere is to rush, rush, hurry, and hurry faster. This pace of life often didn’t allow me to even have time to choose how I felt–I just had to do, do faster, and answer as fast as possible because time was ticking.

    Since I moved to Colorado about a month ago I’ve been able to slow down the thought process and kind of remind myself “things aren’t so bad, and hey look up there’s a beautiful mountain right in front of your face”. So I guess I choose joy when I choose to look up–Pikes Peak is my “facts”.

    In DC, I would walk around staring at the ground all the time because I was always so scared of the rushing people and there’s not much in the way of scenery. It was always easier to ride my bike around to avoid the congestion and noise. Often to get peace of mind, I would have to ride out at least 30 miles to MD or VA to see a farm or some horses. I remember being so stoked to get up at 6am on Saturday morning to head out on my road bike with a jersey full of snacks and GU. I would get home around 4 or 5pm and just sleep and wake up and do it again the next day. Sometimes I’d even fastpack the C&O canal despite it not being the safest for a single girl.

    Mountain running has taken me away from the hustle and anxiety of living in Washington DC my entire life, and I am ever so grateful. Sometimes though, its hard to remember the gratitude in moments of stress but I’ll try to think of this quote in future situations–its short and sweet.

    Dont stop writing! I dig.

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