Sonya Huber



1 As if the gain itself, the good, the fat, were the point, as if loss wasn't what tied us to other people and broke apart our fake shimmering shells, as if loss wasn't the true wealth, the shape-shifter. As if this assertion of sunshine would be enough to blot out any depression—and much worse, as if one should therefore be ashamed to have the momentary flash of petulance: life sucks. As if teenage rebellion against life could be ignored out of existence with a smile. As if we could ever understand life—think of that—all of life, and declare it good, in the process stretching the word "good" out far enough to slacken it to the size of the universe; yes, let's make them equal and then we will be safe, take the precision of a narrow field and put in an equal sign so that we don't have to worry anymore. As if you were also in completely union with the reverse insight, the Buddhist om of universal acceptance of all phenomena, enlightenment itself, a roiling hell of death confronted, not captioned with a smiley face. You wear this shirt when faced by cancer, squeezing out the drops of shimmering life from a cup of orange juice, and I get that part, I revere that attention to the particular in the face of the extreme, but isn't that said with a shiver, in a serious font, whispered among loved ones, and not slapped on a bumper sticker? Maybe a smaller type size, and not comic sans. Its goofy joy strikes me as gloating when it appears on your jeep's spare tire, facing me in traffic, or is it a kind of anti-intellectual smugness that claims space for simple joy as if the simple things are the most true? In a way I get this is true, even when not stoned: Dude, cheese; air; teeth. But as if rejecting the complex were any way to live. As if it's almost on purpose that this slogan would stymie me, ease me into a world where over-thinking is extinct. As if in nostalgia for a time that never existed where things were imaginarily simple, where we might imagine we found union through gratitude toward every blessed blade of grass. And yes, I get that too, but secular gratitude also turns on itself, because the spiritual container is too weak, a water balloon, too much of a product, and it easily turns into a corporate appropriation, a shaming where we are required to say thank you, thank you to every boss and hellish moment, be grateful they gave you anything at all. As if any disruption in normal goodness were a lack of appreciation, as if orange juice were all we needed, as if.

2 which led me to obsess, to research the company (a pair of white Boston brothers, wealthy now from selling t-shirts) and to follow the evolution of the company's slogans, the move after 2010 from poor design to an appropriation of seventies-style graphics, washed-out never-been-there vintage and, of course, Namaste. They, too, sing America. As if I could relax into it for just a second, and then I would understand everything.

3 in a wind-tunnel of fragility at the edge of the crumbling world.




I thought this piece was going to be a book. There's a whole mess of my rantings on my computer about "Life is Good," pages and pages, and now here it is as three footnotes. I don't know whether all that bombast will be put to rest with this. And it started by staring at one of the tire covers while stuck in traffic, or maybe when I first saw the shirts in an airport somewhere years ago and wondered why I was the kind of person who could not just say, "Okay, so you feel that way. Cool for you." Does that mean I am intolerant? I felt like the t-shirt wanted to start an argument that I wasn't even looking to have. I have a hard time with unequivocal statements. I mean, life is good, but...