The Seriousness of Delight

I posted a question on my Facebook page this morning:  “When you hear the word delight, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”  Not unexpectedly, the winners were things related to children, laughter, music, and culinary treats.  And “Turkish.”

I experienced something this week that has me thinking more seriously about this seemingly airy notion.

Delight.  It’s not something I seek out intentionally.   I’m known as a serious guy who champions beauty, but in a capital “B” sort of way.  Serious stuff, you know.

I think I may have something wrong here.  Or at least unbalanced.

If someone were to ask your advice in moving delight closer to the center of their attention, what strategies would you give them?

Last Tuesday night, having been inspired by the Academy Awards, Anjie and I decided we’d watch one of the nominated/winning films, most likely via Comcast.   We’re thinking 12 Years a Slave or Dallas Buyers Club.  So I’m sitting there with my remote, punching away, looking at choices, and somehow, I inadvertently hit a combination of buttons I didn’t intend to, and next thing you know, the little window appeared saying “Thank you for your order.”

In a panic, I couldn’t figure out what I’d ordered, and frankly wasn’t very happy about it.   Six bucks for something I didn’t intend to buy.   It took me a minute to figure out I’d ordered up the compilation of animated short films nominated for the Academy Award.   Well, close enough, I thought, and though animation is not my wife’s favorite, after I’d apologized profusely, we settled in to see if there might possibly be something worth watching in these little cartoons.

The first film up was a French film, Mr. Hublot, about a man who takes in an orphan puppy and the lightweight difficulties that come when the dog begins to grow.  Simple story, simple characters.

My heart leapt from the very first frame.

Truth is, my mood’s been a bit sour lately.  Trust me, you don’t want to hear about it.  But suddenly, it was as if the sun had come out, bursting my cloudy world into full shine as this brilliantly executed steampunk city came whirling into my living room.  Cogs and counters, wires and whirlygigs, bolts and buckets—the whole design was…well, delightful.

Delightful.

What struck me later was that this simple story delivered in this very particular way in one moment swept the sourness right off my face and out of my mind.  My mouth opened in proverbial slack-jawed, wowie-zowie wonder.   I laughed from my belly, I leaned forward in my chair, I clapped my hands, and as the other animated films spun out in front of me, I kept thinking, “Wow.  Just wow.”   Color, wit, hours of work, the risk of the sheer thought of the subjects, the structures and execution, all coming together in a moment to lift this 54-year-old out of my depressive chair.

Yes, the films ended, and life went on, and there are still clouds hovering.   But when I think of Mr. Hublot, I smile and see the sun every time.

If delight has that kind of power, I wonder why “delight-carriers” are not intentionally closer to the center of my attention.

A couple of questions: does “delight” have that kind of power in your life?   If someone (me) were to ask your advice in moving an intentional pursuit of delight closer to the center of things, what strategies would you give them?

I wonder…

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4 Comments

Filed under art, Beauty, Delight

4 responses to “The Seriousness of Delight

  1. Amy Beth

    When I responded to your Facebook post today I wrote Spring garden. That thought struck me again as I read your final question in your post. Peter and I have been thinking about our spring/summer garden for months now; Peter planning all of our fruits and vegetables, me thinking about how we can make our outdoor room of a yard feel more lovely and whimsical. We are looking forward to sitting under our candelabra under twinkly lights surrounded by fruits and veggies ready to be picked and enjoyed. What I love about delighting in our garden is we also find delight in the anticipation and the planning. But only if we take the time. Without the space to build and dig and talk and dream, the garden wouldn’t get built.
    I laugh at myself for the enjoyment I receive with even small changes I make to our home. A gallery wall that makes me smile for weeks after I install it. Feeling like a freshly pruned rhodie transforms a corner of our yard. In each of these cases I have been a part of some sort of creation. And yet I did not paint those paintings on my wall. I do not make the plants grow. I am a part of these things that bring me delight, yet they also depend on things entirely out of my control.
    Time & Space. Creation & Community. Those are the things delight makes me think about.

    • jeffberryman

      Okay, Amy Beth…getting out my gardening tools now. Oddly enough, spring flowers are one of the things that delight me royally. Why do I never plant any? Hmmmm…off to get some seeds!

      Thanks,

      Jeff

  2. Ruth McRee

    Dorothy Day is one of my heroes. Truly her life was so strong. She accomplished so much in her time and I admire her passion for doing the things she saw to do, her courage, her commitment to them. The collection of her diaries is titled “The Duty of Delight” – I am quite sure it is her phrase somewhere in the thousands of entries and articles she wrote. But I have never been able to quite work my way through the writings. I think, in part, because of the word “Duty”.

    “Duty” can never shed its onerous fog somehow. The gray-green-brown of duty makes me weary before I begin.

    Funny though, there is real satisfaction in doing what one has to do, is committed to do, or just CAN do and so “should” – making it a “duty”. It is also noted that when we are delighted, somehow we are at our best: surprised, disarmed, enchanted by the other whatever-it-is! I think it is close to being “in love”.

    Love and Delight – perhaps they are the same! At this moment, I think they are, because in either we are most simply oriented outside Self – and it is completely “enough”.

    • jeffberryman

      SO beautifully said, Ruth. “When we are delighted, we are somehow at our best.” I don’t have any data to back that claim up, but my hunch is that you are right on. Thanks! Jeff

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