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Saturday, 19 June 2021

The joy of all things dies in the enjoying



For he, whatever pleasure rises at the beauty of the scene, loses it by thinking of it; even as the joy of all things dies in the enjoying.

R. D. Blackmore - Alice Lorraine (1875)

An idea derived from Kant perhaps, but to my mind Blackmore expresses it more succinctly. That first soft glow of sunrise early on a summer’s morning. Even an ordinary suburban garden can seem beautiful until the sun rises a little further, the heat of the day builds and human life begins to stir. Whatever it was is soon disturbed, soon gone.

Childhood Christmas was perhaps equally ephemeral. Weeks of delicious promise, Christmas morning arrives, unwrap the presents and soon enough the excitement fades - even as the joy of all things dies in the enjoying. Too soon Boxing day arrives and who cares about Boxing day?

A new job, new house, new car are much the same. A new piece of music, a long anticipated holiday, a special restaurant meal. Ephemeral enjoyment for most. As if we have lost not so much the art of contentment, but more a case of never having had it. As if ephemeral is the natural state of affairs and extracting more than that usually requires more than we are able to give.

In a far wider sense it is surely possible to wonder if we have lost the ability to enjoy what we have so arduously gained in the modern world – gained in terms of health, prosperity and freedom. As if we cannot even value what our ancestors achieved and built even as the joy of all things dies in the enjoying. As if we cannot value it because we cannot enjoy it.

In that wider sense, there seems to be a major political problem too. We are lumbered with a political class and an establishment which apparently cannot value what we have and therefore cannot even preserve it for future generations. The establishment looks on what we have, what we have achieved and loses it by thinking of it. Loses it for us anyhow.

Which may seem odd, but the quality and direction of political thought seems strangely incompetent, strangely irrelevant, strangely susceptible to borderline madness. As if major political actors are unaware of what we are, how we arrived here and how to value what has been achieved. And so we allow it to slip through greasy, incompetent fingers.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You forgot children and grandchildren. The whole point of our existence, and you never fire of them. Definitely not ephemeral.

Yet Another Chris

A K Haart said...

Chris - good point, they are the whole point of our existence, even as teenagers.

Sam Vega said...

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

(Robert Frost)

Graeme said...

That is a splendid poem. An exercise in pure poetry

A K Haart said...

Sam - "only so an hour" sounds like our roses.

Graeme - it is.

djc said...


Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde [echoing Boethius, Consolations of Philosophy]


O brotel wele of mannes Ioie vnstable.
with what wight so thow be or how thow pleye.
Either he woot that thow Ioie art muable.
Or woot it nought. it mot ben oon of tweye.
Now if he woot it nought how may he seye.
That he hath verray Ioie and selynesse.
That is of ignoraunce ay in derknesse.

Now if ╚Łe woot that Ioie is transitorie.
As euery Ioie of worldly thyng mot flee.
Than euery tyme he that hath in memorie.
The drede of lesyng maketh hym that he.
May in no perfit selynesse be.
And if to lese his Ioie he sette a myte.
Than semeth it that Ioie is worth but lite.

Wherfore I wol diffyne in this matere.
That trewely for aught I kan espie.
Ther is no werray weele in this world heere.

A K Haart said...

djc - I'd say there is well-being to be found, but not the brittle and transient version we are expected to rely on. Something we seem to know but are easily persuaded to ignore.