The Duty of Delight

On my 33rd birthday, after an ECHO scan of baby boy and a lunch of pho and bubble tea, Sam and I took a walk around our old campus at the University of Illinois. We love visiting and reminiscing on some of our favorite years (most of which we didn’t spend together, since we started dating only a month before he graduated), marveling at how the campus has changed so much in the last decade, and appreciating the beautiful freedom of college life.

It didn’t take long to decide to pop into one of the libraries, and our first choice was the History and Philosophy Library where Sam used to work. The smell of old books greeted us as we made our way up to the small library within the large Graduate Library. Life quietly hummed all around us.  We paused to take it in before stepping down some rows of books. Without an agenda, we perused the titles and each grabbed one. The Duty of Delight caught my eye, and I grabbed the thick book.  It’s a published journal of Dorothy Day, a catholic charity worker in NYC. Curious at the title, I read the intro which mentioned John Ruskin’s phrase “the duty of delight.” I was instantly sold on the thought.  Day’s journal entries were simple accounts—a few sentences a day—of daily life and service. It was surprisingly unremarkable, but contained a beautiful steadfast nature that captured her faithful service and her desire to delight in the mundane.

Still, I wanted more from the meaning behind the book—specifically the phrase by Ruskin.  A couple web searches brought me little results until I found some original work by John Ruskin.  (Thank you Google books and public domain works!) See pages 305-307 for the section I’m referring to.

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I sat there reading (and rereading, because my brain is functioning in toddler-language for the majority of the week) these words and was filled with gratitude for them. For some, delight and enjoyment come readily. For me, it takes a side-step from my natural tendencies to delight, to ease up, to relish.

But it is truly a spiritual duty—and while we serve here, our eternity will be spent beholding and delighting in God.  Shouldn’t I be practicing that more here and now—in the day-to-day mundane, in nature, in words, in music? What a gift that it is considered a duty—something that I am meant to do, rather than something I am distracting or entertaining myself with.

I’d love to hear how you are practicing the duty of delight and learning its importance in your life.

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