A kind of joy…

When I was young and first met my wife, part of the soundtrack of our lives was a couple of albums by Everything But the Girl.

Tracey Thorn (the Girl in question) started making music again a couple of years ago, although I had not heard any of it until yesterday, when I heard a song called ‘Joy’. It made me cry. There is something in it that opens me up.

I ordered the album- a Christmas album of all things. I suspect it will be spinning a lot over the next weeks.

Here it is;

 

Epicurus, and a life lived for simple pleasures…

Time for a little ancient Greek philosophy…

I have been thinking about the things that motivate us to live fuller, deeper lives- the sorts of things that might encourage us to reach beyond the narrow things of our busy lives, and long for something better. It is kind of the theme of most of the stuff on this blog. For me this is a mingling of faith, family, community, art- poetry and music- and connection with the needs of others.

But a lot of the time, I find myself drawn into a different way of living, dominated by a desire to gather to myself stuff that gives life a degree of comfort and pleasure. It becomes about ME and MINE. Life becomes divorced from the way of Jesus, and the laughter of the Spirit.

Back to the Greeks, as there is nothing new under the sun (with the possible exception of velcro.)

Epicurus lived in a time when heroism was idealised- self sacrifice in the name of honour, public service, in service of the Gods. His culture was overshadowed by the whims and wishes of divine beings, as they looked down from Olympus and interfered with the ways of men. Epicurus and his followers suggested a different path- one that could be seen as similiar in many ways to our hopes for life in the West…

It propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life. Hence, Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one’s lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure.

The greatest good was to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia) through knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of our desires. The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form.

Lawbreaking was counseled against because of both the shame associated with detection and the punishment it might bring. Living in fear of being found out or punished would take away from pleasure, and this made even secret wrongdoing inadvisable. To the Epicureans, virtue in itself had no value and was beneficial only when it served as a means to gain happiness.

Friendship was encouraged because it was personally beneficial.

Death should not be feared- it is merely the end of all things- on their tombstones, Epicureans were known to have inscribed- I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.

The universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.

I have to say that something about Epicureanism depresses the hell out of me. This is perhaps because it is so empty- so self seeking. Is this it? Is this all that we are about- the carving out of a life of modest pleasure, and avoidance of pain?

Perhaps for many of us, this is enough.

Many of us spend half a life time trying to achieve this ideal, then the rest trying to defend it.

Jesus was less interested in happiness, but talked about JOY. For him Joy is born in us- we do not make it or earn it or capture it. Joy rises up in the most unlikely of places, in spite of pain, discomfort, and loss. It is related to living a life that is connected to the deeper purposes of God- the ways of love. The ways of service. The walk of the humble.

C S Lewis said this- “I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.”

Life is here- then gone.

And in the midst of the thing is such great joy. Let us not miss it.

Against such there is no law…

fruit-1

A continuation of some stuff based around the list of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5.

This poem kind of nods at all the fruit Paul mentions.

You can see the others by clicking on the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ category on the left.

Love is not against the law
Although in judicial circles
It is not encouraged

But where the Spirit of the Lord falls
Love is between us like oil on bearings

Joy is not forbidden
But wherever it breaks out
It is fragile
Like a bubble
In a pine forest

But where the Spirit of the Lord rests
Joy beats like a dancing drum in the middle of us
Calling us to dance

Peace is never prohibited
But like a dove above a shooting range
Its flight is fraught with danger

But where the Spirit of the Lord lives
The boundaries we keep are soft
And we are learning how
To forgive

Patience is permitted in most places
But only if you use it quickly

But where the Spirit of the Lord lingers
Patience is like the summer sun
Drawing out the sugars in the ripening fruit
Sweetening the harvest

Kindness is condoned even in the most unlikely places
But it will win you few contracts
And is not conducive to
Promotion

But where the Spirit of the Lord comes close
Kindness kind of follows after

Goodness will not result in a jail sentence
But neither will it pay its way
In the global village superstore

But when the Spirit of the Lord smiles
Goodness becomes the common currency
Gentleness is no crime
And in many places it is a clinical necessity
But it is easily overlooked
In the shadow of another conquest

But where the Spirit of the Lord draws near
Then hands all rough from hard works
Become softened to hold
And to heal

Faithfulness is never a traitor
Yet we live like weathervanes
Spun by the seasons
To face the prevailing winds

But when the Spirit of the Lord moves
Promises no longer require the threat
Of legal recourse

pulpit

Self control is thundered from the pulpit
But just in case the message falls on deaf ears
We deploy the secret pew police
Rule books at the ready
Swinging their
Truncheons of truth
To crunch the knuckles
Of the apostate

But when the Spirit of the Lord comes amongst us
There is a perfect law called…

Freedom

Emily and Will, somewhere in Wester Ross, 2003

Emily and Will, somewhere in Wester Ross, 2003

The fruit of the Spirit is joy…

image from flickr

Something down deep
Wants out
Spleen and liver shiver
Pressure mounts
Rise up this heavy heart to heaven
And shout

This precious life and loving
In these veins now flowing
Will burst the banks old rivers
had formed
And pour out
On thirsty ground

So you and me-
Let’s find our feet
In freedom
And dance
Let’s live out lives
All open
To circumstance

For joy is a bubble building
In me
And Lord-
How beautiful
Is this world
I see