Posts Tagged ‘Joy’

The Duty of Delight

Friday, January 1st, 2021

Intending to look for beauty and hope in a dark season is admirable, but how does one sustain the practice? Short cuts and how-to recipes don’t last. Sheer willpower eventually becomes grim determination. Imagination, honest work, and genuine delight are needed to break the chains of apathy and despair.

Consumer culture offers countless ways to narcotize body and mind with the promise of more and better things. Not that this is entirely new. In 1804, William Wordsworth wrote, “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;/Little we see in Nature that is ours;/We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!” Perfected over the next two centuries, that system now functions much as T.S. Eliot said of history, “She gives when our attention is distracted/And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions/That the giving famishes the craving.” It’s a vicious circle all the more cruel in a time of selective economic hardship, festering racial injustice, and ballooning inequality.

Politicians and profiteers make their living by playing on resentments and fears. Freedom is reduced to pursuing the next treasure or experience and adding it to a closely guarded private hoard. Happiness becomes the absence of pain. Truly joyful people, in contrast, don’t seek to escape the world’s burden of suffering. They cultivate active compassion. Compassionate people face suffering and adversity with confidence and grace, having made a duty of delight. Freedom is found in consent, not consumer choice. Some call it madness, but joy is meant to be shared, thrives in community, grows when given away.

(more…)