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COMPASS ROSE: THE UU SAN MATEO BLOG

The Path of DELIGHT

Updated: Jun 2, 2023



I started thinking about writing this reflection in my usual way – reading this month’s Ministry packet, then exploring the theme’s definitions. I was certain “delight” would have rich definitions, but surprisingly, there was not much “there there.”


Soul Matters explained that the word “delight” derives from the Latin delectare, which means “to charm.” From the same root, we connect to both “delectable” and “delicious.” (Perhaps that’s why so many “delightful” things are edible!) For me, “joy,” “happiness,” and “delight” are all related experiences, but each has a unique connotation for the person experiencing them.


To explore this month’s theme, Soul Matters led me to the writings of Ross Gay, whose life and work are all about delight and joy. On his website (http://www.rossgay.net), Gay says:


Ross Gay is interested in joy.

Ross Gay wants to understand joy.

Ross Gay is curious about joy.

Ross Gay studies joy.

Something like that.

This extraordinary author and essayist has written four books of poetry, several of which have won important literary awards. But it is his essay collections – Inciting Joy and The Book of Delights that offered intriguing ideas to ponder as I meandered The Path of Delight.


Gay’s approach to experiencing joy and delight is clearly not pollyannish. “Joy needs sorrow for its existence,” Gay writes in Inciting Joy. “Noticing what we love in common might help us survive.” Joy and delight are based on our interrelationships with one another. “What if joy is not only entangled with pain, suffering, and sorrow but is also what emerges from how we care for each other through these things?” he asks.


Many of us have engaged in a Gratitude Journal practice, recording each day the things for which we are grateful. Gay decided to do something similar with Delight for one year (from one birthday to the next), noting each day something he found delightful and writing an essay about it. He published 100 of those essays in The Book of Delights. From that daily exercise, Gay learned two things: experiencing delight requires effort, and it grows with repetition. “Attending to your delight is a muscle,” he says. “It doesn’t diminish the fact of our sorrows… [I]t makes the fact of our joy, of our delight, of our interdependence, more part of our field of vision, the field of our experience.” By flexing our delight muscle, we may find our lives are actually filled with delight, he suggests.


Even after writing essays about “delight” for an entire year, Gay noticed he had not defined the word. “It feels to me that it often involves an element of surprise … ‘I didn’t know that,’ or ‘I didn’t know that I knew that,’ or ‘I forgot that’,” he explained to one book reviewer. “Or something…sweet [that] reminds us of the good. [Delight] is a category of joy.”


But finally, he offers a definition that touches the heart:


Delight is like the butterflies flying around

and landing on the thing that is joy.

– Ross Gay


* * * * *


Soul Matters usually dedicates its Overview page to summarizing each month’s theme, but I noticed that this month’s Overview is quite different. The writer says:


Because the road

turns long and lonely sometimes,

I built this box of delight.

I picked up the lid and into it I put…


Then he lists several dozen things about his life, his family, and his experiences that he finds delightful. He ends simply, this way:


That’s what’s in my box.

I wonder what you’ll put in yours.


So I’ve taken up the challenge (as suggested in Option A of this month’s Spiritual Exercises) by starting to build my own personal Box of Delight. Admittedly, I’ve only just begun to develop my “delight muscle,” but here’s what has come to mind so far. I delight in:

  • Warm sunshine on a cool day, or a cool breeze on a hot day

  • Standing on the shoreline and feeling wet sand pulled from beneath my toes as a wave returns to the sea

  • The colors of a beautiful sunset, evanescent though they may be

  • Letting canine Hazel off leash someplace safe and welcoming, then watching her run around with wild delight, romping and playing and dancing.

  • Eating and drinking delicious food and beverages

    • Especially delightful when I’ve made them myself

    • Even more delightful when I’ve made them and enjoyed them in the company of loved ones

  • Crossing off a thing or two from my To Do list, especially if they’ve been on there a long time and I thought they would be hard to do

  • Unexpectedly hearing from an old friend after a long absence from one another’s lives

    • Even better: contacting an old friend, and sharing our mutual delight in reconnecting

  • Asking for help when I need it, and discovering others are delighted to respond

  • Making music, both vocal and instrumental, especially in concert with others who like to make music

  • Feeling deeply connected with and moved by my spiritual community

  • Exploring new learnings that open doorways / pathways / perspectives / possibilities I had not previously considered

  • Doing a good job, whether others notice it or not -- but it’s especially delightful when others do notice and tell me so

  • Going shopping and discovering something that makes my heart sing

    • Even better: finding the perfect gift for a beloved Other, one I’m certain will make their heart sing

  • Knowing that while I may not have everything I want in life, I already have everything I truly need

  • Chocolate!

That’s what’s in my box.

I wonder what you’ll put in yours.


* * * * *


Seeking more inspiration and wisdom about The Path of DELIGHT?


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