A Favorite Thing
Every day, I see or hear something
that more or less
kills me with delight.
During the shutdown time of the pandemic I greatly enjoyed my discovery of poet Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, in which he begins, “One day last July, feeling delighted and compelled to wonder about and share that delight, I decided that it might feel nice, even useful to write a daily essay about something delightful. I remember laughing to myself for how obvious it was.”
Then he continues on with 102 essays, meditations of daily delights over the course of a year. Most often they’re expressions of the mindful act of conscious noticing, with delight, the ordinary stuff of life such as “grape hyacinth, to which the other day my neighbors caught me kneeling and taking deep breaths in the grassy easement between our houses.”
And because Ross is a Black man, his delights are not merely mushy idealisms, but sanguine celebrations, the choice to locate delight even in the presence of microaggressions, racism, or existential threat. For instance, of the quote “The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years,” attributed to Thomas Jefferson, which Gay noticed inside the elevator doors of an Embassy Suites, he writes, “Not to mention, which is to say, I delight in mentioning, the fact that this elevator extolling Thomas Jefferson was bringing together two African American poets…, which, according to this Great American (Jefferson, not me), would have been unthinkable. The African American poets part.”
A couple of months ago during a class I held, someone mentioned they now take note of their favorite thing in each day as a new approach to their gratitude practice, which they’d found after many years had begun to feel a little stale. I love this “favorite thing” practice as it seems to take in conscious noticing along with the intentionality of creating good moments that could, by day’s end, result in a favorite thing or a delight.
In Buddhism, it is said that each human shall experience 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. For some of us, the struggle with sorrows can seem ever-present. It is also our human nature to notice negatives or sorrows even in the presence of great joy; it is how the primal part of our brain prepares us for the possibility of oncoming threats. And besides, the presence of sorrow is uncomfortable, distressing, causing lamentable ripples or torrents we cannot help but notice, although we’d much prefer wellbeing, tranquil sanctuary, and peace.
Naming and understanding our sorrows is not to be avoided when it is what is. Though to also notice gratitude, joy, delight, or a favorite thing no matter what, can fuel us with light and energy, nourishing and enriching the foundational soil through which our resilience, strength, love, creative imagination, and inner healing might emerge. That which we most need to aim our hearts toward whether we’re journeying in this moment through joy or sorrow.
What’s Sustaining Me
Reading: A Promised Land, by Barack Obama. It’ll take me the next few months before I’m able to finish 44’s 700-page memoir. But it’s so worth the savoring of every single page and word.
Watching: The Wonder Years. Thoroughly enjoying this well-done reboot of the 1980s comedy originally about a boy and his white middle-class family during the 1960s-70s, now reimagined with a Black family during the same time period in Montgomery, Alabama. Same timeframe, vastly different stories. On ABC and Hulu.
Listening to: Ch.1 Vs. 1, the debut album by Cynthia Erivo, Tony and Grammy award-winning singer and actress who played Celie in the 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple and Harriet Tubman in the movie Harriet.
Learning from: My oldest friend Sherrie who many decades ago introduced me to the works of Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and Frida Kahlo, and now manages to uncover stories and rare photos of Black Unitarians in Philly and Harlem during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Bringing me joy: Walking along the paths of my Durham neighborhood that is resplendent with the beauty of red-orange gold leaves in their last bask in autumn light.