Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Quality of the Day: Enthusiasm, Love, & God Before Happiness

Thoreau writes in Walden:

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look- which morally we can do.  

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts."
To elevate life by a conscious endeavor. It is the thought process of sleeping people to think that if we just eat better, just go to church more, just meditate more, just work out harder, just buy neater clothes, just go to yoga, just read more; just get that next promotion at work, just find someone new, just do something else, we will be happier.

To someone who is awake, it is a kind of death to live life in this common human trap: I just want to be happy.
That is not what any of us really want. It is just a vague idea that surfaces from the current feeling of unhappiness: we feel that something is missing, and then instead of a conscious searching for that thing, what we actually do instead is engage in distractions from the feeling of emptiness. Engaging in distractions is not the same thing as pursuing an answer.

We must be in wild pursuit of the answer. 

We then learn that the answer is in wild pursuit of us.

To elevate life, to affect the quality of the day; this is too much work to call happiness. It is too conscientious, too diligent, too obedient. Happy sells it short. To affect the quality of one single day, every single day- not simply to live for temporarily stimulating distractions from them- that is to be living; that we can call peace.

What we want is color in our worlds, for our life- not just the conglomerate of the individual things in it- to be beautiful. For the very atmosphere of the world, of our lives, to be beautiful. I have learned this much: do not seek your own happiness. Seek beauty, seek love, seek light, seek God.

Seek God earnestly, and you realize yourself.

Not the metaphors or the perceptions of other people on these things- beauty, love, light, God- but these very things themselves, and your happiness- no, it is really more than your happiness, bigger than your happiness; it is closer to joy- will be a byproduct. Then what you will want more of is beauty, light, love, and God- eternal resources- not your own happiness, which, you admit, eludes you.

You cannot seek in the branches what is only available in the roots.

You want your source. Why do we seek adventure? Why do we crave the going out, the exploring, the anticipation of seeing beyond what we have seen? It is one thing to look out at a sunset, at the mountains, at the glory of the natural world, and find awe, reverence, and beauty: it is another thing entirely to experience the exact same feelings of awe, wonder, creation, purpose, reverence, bigness, release- letting go- when you look inside yourself.

When we realize exactly what we carry within us, what a world this life becomes. What we start to see- not because it is 'out there,' but because it is the lens.

Emerson writes in The Conduct of Life:

"Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved."

We will not seek our own happiness with enthusiasm- our own happiness is a selfish thing to want, and you will never find enthusiasm- great passion, great desire- in the heart of a person who lives selfishly, only for themselves, only for their own knowledge and desires.

The search- for beauty, for love, for light, for God; for the filling of that ultimate emptiness we feel- when birthed by enthusiasm, becomes the truth. We cannot want God because He is useful. We must want God because He is beautiful.

Take anything in life on this principle: why want love? Why want relationship? Why want the days themselves, why want life at all?

Because it can be beautiful.

We are influenced to want utility more than beauty; but we were created to want beauty more than utility.

Only enthusiasm for life will propel it forward in the most desirous way, where the days are wonderful, where the mind is present; where the work we do is not for the approval of other men but for the love of them.

To see this shift happen, to see our hearts pine for what is right, bold, noble and satisfying; to go after all that is wild and free inside of us, that is part of what it feels like to wake up.

It is clear, when we are awake enough to see that we can no longer experience contentment while desiring our own happiness, that there is altogether something beyond us that will satisfy the ache our souls long for and minds cannot supply.
It is something to be able to paint a particular picture.

But it is not nearly everything.


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