Joy Clarkson
Speaking with Joy
David Zahl: The Charlie Brown Droop and the Burden of Not Wanting to be a Burden

David Zahl: The Charlie Brown Droop and the Burden of Not Wanting to be a Burden

Joy talks with Dave Zahl about loneliness, humour, and emotional luggage

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Dear Friends,

On this week’s episode I talk with author David Zahl about the inevitable heaviness of life, whether or not trauma dumping is a thing, the refreshing power of humour to remind us we’re not alone, and the efficacy of Thomas Aquinas’ remedies for sorrow (spoiler: tears, the truth, friends, and baths).

David Zahl is an author, podcaster, and the director of Mockingbird Ministries, an organization and publication devoted to connecting the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life. Dave is the author of many books most recently Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to do About it and Low Anthropology: The Unlikely Key to a Gracious View of Others (and Yourself) Dave has been on the podcast before!

This is the second interview in my series on the metaphors You are a Tree and other metaphors to nourish life, thought, and prayer. You can catch last week’s discussion of the metaphor People are Trees with Malcolm Guite here.

We discussed the metaphor Sadness is Heavy. We use this metaphor all the time. We speak of people being heavy-hearted, or feeling down, or of being light-hearted. We speak of feeling burdened, and even the word depression brings forth an image of being pressed or weighed down. We describe weeping as a release, as though it enables us to set down or leave behind a burden. And this metaphor is not only metaphorically but physically true: when we are sad or depressed, we feel a heaviness in our bones, the corners of our mouths fall as if dragged down by a weight. When we’re sad, we adopt what Dave called the Charlie Brown Droop.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Meditating on this metaphor offers us ways to think about the burdens we carry in life. If sadness is not heavy, but a burden, we can think about and strategize about how to bear that burden. We can set it down sometimes, we can think about what elements of the burden we might not need to bear, we can ask others to help us carry it. And we can help to bear the burdens of others too.

Speaking of bearing burdens, Dave and I briefly spoke about the terrifying picture book that we both grew up reading: Dangerous Journey. Originating as a six-episode animated programme adapting John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Dave and I both grew up with the book version. It is really quite an amazing book with one of a kind illustrations, vividly illustrating the vices and glories (but mostly the vices!) upon which the main character Christian stumbles on his journey to the celestial city. I was riveted and horrified by it as a child. I actually now wish that I had recommended Dangerous Journey rather than Pilgrim’s Progress in You are a Tree. But in lieu of that, please enjoy some of these illustrations, captured kindly by my dad of our family copy at home. Perhaps some of these were what Dave had in mind when he described “the Closet of Horrors that my mind can conjure up.”

Christian with his burden meets the Evangelists
This one was particularly terrifying to me as a kid
Christian relieved of his burden

I hope you enjoy this week’s conversation and that perhaps it might lighten— at least a little—whatever burdens you are carrying. Let also me commend to you Dave’s most recent book Low Anthropology, which does, as the subtitle says, offer beautiful insights on taking a more gracious view of others and yourself. Dave’s podcast (with cohosts Sarah Condon and RJ Heijman) is also a delight. I once listened through almost the entire archive while isolated with Covid.

If you enjoy this episode, please do share it with a friend or on social media, or leave a rating or review on wherever you listen to podcasts. And don’t forget…

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All for now, friends! See you on Saturday.



p.s. this is actually the sixth metaphor in You are a Tree. But don’t worry, I didn’t skip the other metaphors. We’ll get there soon :)

Joy Clarkson
Speaking with Joy
Conversations with Joy Clarkson about religion, culture, and art.