Risk Delight

I stumbled across a poem today — A Brief for the Defense” by Jack Gilbert – through a very indirect route.  I say that because it seems to add to the feeling that I particularly needed to hear it today – which is what I feel.  You have to read on with trepidation any poem that begins as this:

“Sorrow everywhere.  Slaughter everywhere.  If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else.”

But it gets better:

“But we enjoy our lives because that is what God wants.  Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine.”

And ultimately hits what I needed to hear:

“If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation.  We must risk delight.  We can do without pleasure, but not delight.  Not enjoyment.  We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world.  To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”

It is, it seems, easy to “deny happiness, resist our satisfaction,” in remembering the suffering in the world, and thinking just how f’d up the world seems at times.  Being afraid to send your children to school, to eat out at a restaurant….  It becomes easy to “make injustice the only measure of our attention.”  But to quote from one my my favorites, Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann, Gilbert reminds us: “With all its sham and drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  Be caresul.  Strive to be happy.”

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