This morning, I awakened to the warm-cedar-scented air flowing in my bedroom window and the song of a cardinal as it started its day. Scent, sound and the touch of breeze. Simple human pleasure.
Some of us belittle or deny ourselves this joy. We see our humanity as lesser than our spirituality - flawed, tainted, untrustworthy. Yet, our humanity is not a bit less than our spirituality. It is our spirit made flesh. We can no more separate the two than we can separate water from wet.
So why do we deny ourselves? We have lots of good reasons. Protection from disappointment, a religious background where stress is placed on denial of the body, a personal belief that we do not deserve pleasure, a cultural work ethic where we can only earn pleasure through sacrifice and suffering. Some of us deny ourselves and others pleasure as a way to control life, and others just don't believe that they have time to stop and smell the roses.
I had a friend who told me she never used to stop long enough - she'd be drinking coffee while folding laundry and thinking ahead to the 17 other tasks she had to finish before bed. But she changed. She discovered that taking that short minute to enjoy her coffee refreshed her spirit enough to make the other tasks go more smoothly, often more quickly. She learned how important sensory pleasure can be - she told me there is nothing she liked better than stepping out of the steamy bathroom after her morning shower into the rich smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen.
The iridescent colours of a bird in the sunlight, a sweet cinnamon scent from the kitchen, the shocking delicious taste of a cold beer on a scorching hot day, the melody of church bells carried across the fields. These are all pleasures of the senses, pleasures of our very humanity. And they all give our spirit a lift.
In the movie "Chocolat," one of the main characters takes denial of pleasure to an extreme, until one day, it all catches up to him and he gorges himself in a chocolate feeding frenzy. The priest, in his homily near the end of the movie spoke of the Lord's humanity rather than His divinity. He said, "... we can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include."
Our body is not a shell that encases our spirit, it is the living breathing presence of our spirit. And our spirit delights in delight.
Taking a moment to enjoy the sound of traffic on the street or the warmth of clothes fresh from the dryer are important moments in my day. This pleasure in the physical doesn't take me away from the grace and beauty of spirit. It helps me bring body and spirit together.