“Delight” — I’m not talking about thrills or new desserts — is a really big deal, but, for many folks I know, it’s been drowned out.
My wife consistently plays the piano. Sometimes her playing disappoints her, sometimes a new piece seems too difficult, sometimes her back hurts, sometimes she feels her hands are too small. But if I spy on her from the other room, she’s always absorbed by playing the piano, swaying with the feeling of the piece, making funny noises when she misses a note (sounds kind of like “Wraaack!”). She’s noticeably stabilized or “centered” after playing. It arises from — and returns her to — her deep place.
Playing the piano is a joy that pulls and pushes her day after day, week after week. Some people might call it a “passion” but that word connotes excitement, and she’s rather calm about the whole thing. Others might label it “a hobby”, but that word seems a little too trivial. It’s hard to define; I hope her example may suggest my meaning.
The Tale Wagged
Many people haven’t been discovered by their “piano.” Yet.
By “delight,” I mean quiet and simple and ordinary, like (for me) puttering in a garden or woodshop or writing. This form of enjoyment satisfies deep parts of its lucky host.
The tricky thing about delight is we can’t exactly go after it directly; it seems a by-product of focusing on something else. Milady doesn’t play the piano in a selfish way, for emotional satisfaction, but because it poses problems she enjoys solving, almost the way I derive joy from fixing stuff, the way my son derives joy from video games, the way my grandmother toiled to make her roses flourish. They’re all equal, all done as an end, not a means. Another woman crochets, a man carves owls as children play. (If these are “hobbies”, then allow me to lift hobbies toward spiritual practice.)
If you know an activity that consistently gives you delight, you’re fortunate; devote time to it. If you don’t, set out to uncover it, then make time for it. Without this deeper kind of joy, we are stunted.
Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?
Notice an enjoyment that steadily nourishes you. Exciting whims may come and go, but some seem deeper or more nourishing than others.
If it seems eclipsed at the moment, poke around, try different things, see if it matures and deepens into something nourishing. It may masquerade as “a hobby,” but it may really be much more. Then do what it tells you to do, and do it often. Been tinkling around on a piano? Give it a chance! I know a woman who wouldn’t give up until she could change a flat in ten minutes!
(Don’t be surprised if someone thinks you’re weird for really getting in to something that’s uniquely yours.)