The essence of joy is detachment. Pure joy is an experience of ecstasy, in which we stand outside of ourselves. It is like the baby featured recently on YouTube. Every time his father tore a piece of paper, the baby erupted into peals of spontaneous gut-giggles(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc. (I dare you to refrain from giggling.) True joy is standing outside of all ego-judgments, and entering into an experience feet first.
Walking along the Puget Sound waterfront in 80 degree weather, I met a Vietnam Vet walking his white shih Tzu, “Pootie.” “Pootie is a service dog trained to create a peaceful environment for the vets he visits at the VA hospital. Time enjoyed with “Pootie” lowers blood pressure, and keeps the demons of PTSD at bay, at least during this sacred, liminal time. This little Shih Tzu seems to have the same effect on his owner. As we chatted there in the glorious sun, joy emanated from this vet and made its home in me.
A walk along Echo Lake began with my daily encounter with “Beautiful,” a magnificent Great Blue Heron. Escaping notice at first, I finally spotted her hiding among the cattails. “There you are!” I cheered. She stretched her long neck and turned her head sideways, the better to see me. I serenaded her with, “How are you today, Beautiful? It’s so delightful to see you again. Thank you for coming.” And she slowly plodded her way over to within ten feet of me. Watching. Listening. Honest.
I continued on to the lake’s end, and watched three groups of people fish. A man walked by me with an eight inch pink-speckled trout dangling from his thumb. His nearly toothless grin and tattered coveralls conjured images of Tom and Huck playing along the shores of Old Man River. I greeted the fisher with, “You caught one!” He smiled widely and announced, “Oh, I caught a few. You want this one?” I hesitated as a movie of me walking home and into the lobby of my apartment building with this fish dangling from my thumb, played out in my head. Tom caught my hesitation and in a mournful tone exclaimed, “You don’t like FISH?” I rushed to explain my dilemma, which he graciously understood. I wish I had accepted Tom’s gift. I could have mounted it on my wall and framed it with a plaque cautioning, “DON’T LOOK A GIFT FISH IN THE MOUTH.”
In 1982, two years after my sojourn in Berkeley, I moved from a small provincial town to Capitol Hill in Seattle. Finally, I could breathe again! Capitol Hill is home to many citizens of the kingdom of Out-of-the-Box. Last week, in 2013, I had returned for an appointment and joyously wasted time strolling down 15th Avenue. I was ecstatic to rediscover the Bagel Deli, which was established in 1980. Last year it was awarded the title, “Best Bagel in Seattle.” Still crazy, after all these years!” (Thank you, Paul Simon.)
Inside, delicious memories, not all culinary, wafted around the loft like ghosts looking for a hostess: stimulating conversationalists, friends always up for a good belly laugh, lox and bagels to die for. It had been a time in my prime, when my body and my mind still cooperated with me. I sat at a table beside a wall of windows thrown open to lure in the cool Puget Sound breeze on this warmish day. Before pouncing on my bagel, I “gave thanks for all that has been, and said yes to all that will be.” (Dag Hammarskjold)
Some people write gratitudes at each day’s closing. I savor these glimpses of joy as reminders of what God can do in me if I jump in feet first. Nourish us with your own glimpses of joy in the comment section, if you feel so moved.