My heart is saddened by recent world events. And not just bombs and killing and war, but also ongoing poverty and deep hunger, injustices, the selling of humans into slavery, and homelessness right in our backyard.
And yet, can we risk delight? If so, how do we live in the tension of acknowledging what is broken around us, while also celebrating and appreciating what is good and fills us with joy?
How do we do that? How do we experience the joy and not feel guilty because there’s so much suffering on this broken planet?
Ignoring the problems doesn’t help. Neither does ignoring what delights us … as if by not choosing joy, we somehow can make the suffering less.
Poet Jack Gilbert wrote:
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,Jack Gilbert
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
During my season of widowhood, I wrote from time to time about the simple pleasures of life and how I didn’t want to focus on my lack or loss, but on all there was that made my life sweet.
The widow years taught me to pay full attention and speak gratitude. Because it was in that hard and holy place that I learned, really learned, there are no guarantees—no guarantees that the people and the things that bring us joy in life will still be around next year. Or next month. Or tomorrow.
Simple pleasures, such as, people to love and people who love us. Stacks of books and pots of tea. The capacity to hike tall mountain trails. Planting flowers. Fireplace burning warm. Road trips. Smell of cinnamon pumpkin scones. Raking autumn color into a pile. Kayaking a cold mountain lake.
Gilbert wrote further in his poem about simple pleasures vs. the reality of sorrow while we walk this earthly path:
We must admit there will be music despite everything.Jack Gilbert
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
There is sorrow yet to come as long as we live on this wildly-spinning planet. There is broken-heartedness yet to come, and more wars, and disregard for human life in so many ways.
We cannot make light of any of this. And we must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.
Can we stubbornly acknowledge that we have much to be joyful for? Can we stubbornly express our gratitude? And stubbornly choose to enjoy music, and beauty in nature, and sharing a meal with good friends?
This prayer of blessing is attributed to Teresa of Avila, who lived in the 1500s:
May there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul
the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love.Teresa of Avila
Yes, we acknowledge that there is evil and injustice and pain and sorrow all around us on different scales of hurt among our loved ones, in our neighborhoods, and across the world. And while we stubbornly do our small part—listen, love, feed, pray, give, go, comfort—can we also stubbornly sing, and dance, and praise, and love.
Can we stubbornly acknowledge that we were created on purpose, with purpose, and can we determine not to waste that life … while we still have it?