Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Like Radiant Gods

I've been reading on the train to work. The last few trips I've left the earphones out of my ears, left the iPod off and just read a little and rested my brain for the day ahead. The other day I came across this little epigram at the beginning of a chapter of the book I'm currently into:

"Let us live most happily, possessing nothing,
  Let us feed on joy like radiant gods."

Photo by Fred Andersen

Its from the Dhammapada, a scripture based on the sayings of Buddha, as compiled after his death by some of his disciples, if I'm not mistaken. And by itself it would be, as the kids say, awesome enough. But it put me in mind of something I forget all too often: that many, many times when I'm feeling low or down or out-of-sorts (whatever you care to call it) I'll suddenly laugh at or about something. It usually comes out of left field: I'm sitting in front of the TV and someone says something that takes me completely by surprise; or a particularly brilliant commercial comes on, and I'll find myself laughing in spite of myself. It's such a satisfying feeling, that kind of joy that just springs up out of nowhere, from deep inside. It really is as though I've had a bite of something really delicious. 

Or in the middle of the work day, feeling a little stressed, an opportunity presents itself to laugh with someone by the coffee machine, unplanned, a gift. Maybe not a feast, but certainly at least a couple bites of joy.

As to "possessing nothing", while Chris and I don't exactly have nothing, we live with rather less of the "stuff" that's usually associated with being all grown up: a mortgage (or two), multiple cars, the usual. We prefer to spend our spare funds on nice things for the apartment, antique bargains, rugs, art, travel, dining out... It does make life easier, for one thing. Simpler. No, we're hardly monks, but I guess you'd say we try to keep things simple, and to find joy where we can.

Sunday morning we decided to take a drive, since it was a fairly decent day and a little like spring. We drove down to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA, where they have a small, wonderful collection of American art and, of course, paintings by all three generations of Wyeths. The oil paintings by N.C. Wyeth that served as illustrations for books (like "Treasure Island" and "Kidnapped") and magazines are worth the price of admission alone. And we stopped at Ruby's Diner for a late lunch and had a wonderful afternoon. Just spur-of-the-moment and, yes, joyful.

To "feed on joy like radiant gods"! What a great line. What a wonderful sentiment. The image of it is joyful in itself: reading it, I smiled. Re-reading it, I smile. Thinking about it...I smile.

I'm smiling right now.

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