Though You Have Considered The Facts

Zach Miller contemplates the sources of joy in humans.

By on August 19, 2016 | Comments

“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
Zach Miller lives in a school bus he outfitted himself. 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.