Exercise the pleasure muscle

I have a friend who every time he sees a whale texts me saying, “I JUST SEE A WHALE!

It may not seem like much, but I live near the Humpback Highway, where thousands of whales pass through warmer waters each year. Keep your eyes on the horizon for five minutes and you’re bound to see a breach. So these whale notifications come as frequently as fake text messages from postmen saying I have a delivery coming and overseas numbers advising me to upgrade my electricity. Sometimes I even replied to those messages, “Oh… just another whale text.”

But when I stop to think about it, it’s quite admirable. While many others run and stop staring at the water, my friend is still able to find excitement for something that – at least where we live – is a fairly common sighting.

We see this kind of joy in children all the time, and we admire it as we get older. We watch them scream with wide eyes at bubbles or sand or a bird on the fence, and we can’t help but laugh at their response. As we age, many things fight against these moments, and we become dulled by all the little pleasures life has to offer. We are busy, take on responsibilities, suffer and worry about the world around us. It is not that we forget the pleasure. We just tend to gravitate toward big, momentary moments like vacations, fancy meals, thrills, and gadgets.

There are many things that, if I stopped paying attention to them, could bring me joy with little expense and effort: a smile from a stranger; rain on a tin roof; leaf patterns; rocks you can sink into; the crack of a watermelon; the reflection of the moon on the water. Like a child crying, “Wow! Do it again!” that’s how I have to answer. But often I get distracted by life, and move on.

It makes me wonder about God’s response to the things of creation. Does he make every sunrise like we make our beds, or does he rejoice in everyone like a child with a new pack of crayons? Is he pointing to the stars flying in the sky, or is his head in his hands with all there is to do? Is it fainting before the spray of an ocean wave, or has it made the mountains like we mow our lawns?

After suffering a severe stroke, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of a French fashion magazine, found himself completely paralyzed, mute and half deaf. Letter by letter, with his only functional eyelid, he dictates to a nurse a memoir entitled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. As he lay in the hospital for the last years of his life, he remembered moments he longed to relive: a cup of milk tea in his hands; deep armchairs; fish straight from the water; operate the bathtub faucets with his toes; a simple boiled egg; cradling her children in her arms; the stairs leading to the beach which are now dead ends; the possibility of returning an “I love you”. Although his life is now stripped of most pleasures and is what he describes as “a jellyfish existence”, Jean-Dominique continues to find little treasures. The last words he dictated in his memoirs just two days before his death were: “We must keep looking.” Although confined to a hospital bed, he could still enjoy the view of the sea from his window and a friendly hand caressing his numb fingers.

Very often the struggle clouds our eyes and prevents us from enjoying what is around us. During COVID-19, Yale University released a course called “The Science of Well-Being,” designed to give people tools to increase their happiness. A psychological tool was called “savoring,” which means getting out of an experience, seeing it again, and enjoying it. The challenge was for people to choose an experience to savor each day, whether it was a simple shower or a walk outside. They then had to share the experience with another person or think about how lucky they were to enjoy the moment. Studies have shown that savoring moments makes us notice and appreciate life’s experiences more, helps us cope with stress, and even increases our creativity.

It is no coincidence that the Bible tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8, NKJV), and when we expect something or need strength, to “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13, NKJV). We are not only asked to read and believe, but to experience and know God by paying attention to the gifts He gives daily. more than a few seconds of pleasure. From there, we cultivate an attitude of adoration, admiration, and gratitude, and we grow in our ability to see good and to see God. As author Tish Harrison says warren in Ordinary Liturgy, “We must embrace the practice – the privilege and the responsibility – of noticing, savoring, reveling, so that, in the words of Annie Dillard, ‘creation need not play in a empty house.’ ”

My guess is that our God is not a boring God; that He not only delights in the little things, but He also delights in our delight in them. We can’t deny that life can be tough. But the little joys that surround us can be a resting place for hope and sustain us through what can sometimes feel like a sea of ​​disappointment. We can appreciate a knowing look from our pet and remind ourselves that God sees us. We can look at the strokes of paint on a seashell and know that it is full of painstaking care. We can feel the grass between our toes and remember that he so wisely built the foundations of our lives. We can be sure that when our body reacts in a way that cries out, “Do it again!” He will gladly do it again and again, because he likes to see our faces light up.

In Letters to Malcolm, C. S. Lewis wrote that he once thought he should begin “by putting together what we believe in the goodness and greatness of God, thinking about creation and redemption”. Instead, he says, start with the pleasures at your fingertips. For him it was a talkative stream and fluffy foam. As I write this, it’s blue skies after weeks of rain and the sound of my neighbor singing on his piano.

As we age, we need to relearn the art of cheerfulness and flex our muscles to enjoy life. So, in the words of CS Lewis, “Start where you are.” Focus your gaze on the wonder, beauty and delight God has placed here for us, and when you find yourself even slightly aroused, take a deep breath and let out a “WOWW!” Say thank you to God and share your whale moment with a loved one. Over time, the little things might start to feel like the bigger and better things.

The original version of this comment was posted by Adventist Registry.

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