A few days ago, I listened to this On Being podcast, in which Krista Tippett interviews Elizabeth Gilbert, who quotes a poet named Jack Gilbert (no relation, I presume, as none was mentioned), and a line of his about “risking delight.” I haven’t found the poem, but the instruction to “risk delight” deems to me to be a good mantra for all of life, but perhaps especially for the third third.
In my personal life, delight is that which evaporated ten years ago, and the road toward its rediscovery is long and rugged and often treacherous. The potential for deight is found in the small and the vast, of course, from the tiniest of blossoms bursting forth in the springtime woods to the vast canyons and mountains carved out of eons in the American west, and countless other natural phenomena on this earth and in the universe, and it is the only goal which I can imagine might counter the devastation wrought by natural and human proclivity for disaster.
Too often in the life of the church, my work milieu, delight is precisely that which is missing. I wonder increasingly, as I observe jaws set in resistance, eyelids drooping with boredom, postures indicative of resistance: Where is the delight? Delight is a foundational component in every faith tradition of which I know anything. Today, out for a hike, my daughter and I saw a scarlet tanager. I am sure that the Creator delights in that bird, as Jesus delights in the play of children, and the Spirit in the dance of the wind. How have we so reduced that delight to arguments over fire escapes and sound systems?
In our public life, delight seems to be the missing factor. It’s no wonder that the western world breathed a sigh of relieved anticipation on the morning of the royal wedding — what with Brexit and American politics and Russian misadventures and chaos and violence in the Middle East, we are starved for delight. I am not the first person to notice that nothing in the way of joy or humor or enchantment emanates from the White House these days ~ quite the opposite, in fact.
Would we not live more abundantly if we risked delight in place of all that we so consistently fall for in its stead?