“When the heavenly gods created human beings, they kept everlasting life for themselves and gave us death. So, Gilgamesh, accept your fate. Each day, wash your head, bathe your body, and wear clothes that are sparkling fresh. Fill your stomach with tasty food. Play, sing, dance, and be happy both day and night. Delight in the pleasures that your wife brings you, and cherish the little child who holds your hand. Make every day of your life a feast of rejoicing! This is the task that the gods have set before all human beings. This is the life you should seek, for this is the best life a mortal can hope to achieve.”
– “The Epic of Gilgamesh”
I have been thinking a great deal these last few weeks about happiness. I have been thinking about it in context of simplicity vs. luxury, of complex pleasures to simple pleasures. I have been thinking about the nature of pain, the nature of joy, and the ways in which it is so easy to flit from one to the other. I have been thinking, thus, about expectation, about moment vs. lifetime, about preparation and being present.
I have also been thinking a lot about comfort. Specifically, how it is often an illusion and, even more so, often a trap. In many of these cases, the context has landed squarely on my body and my relationship with it and its relationship with the world around it.
Today was a good day for me and my body. We walked through a sudden, drenching rain that was delightful in its tenacity (and lasted just long enough to get us from one door to the next) and which provided us in the aftermath with a refreshingly cool/damp towel from which to wipe the sweat from our brow. We walked a mile in 20 minutes and then did a variety of strength-building exercises that challenged us and made us sore in good ways that will remind us of our hard work. Then we sat on the porch with good friends and laughed, ate a freshly-baked macaroon that tasted like summer, and drove home with the windows down. The wind was blustery and cool and the sun sparkled on the wet pavement as we passed. We took a long shower with the window open (one of our favorite things to do while it’s still warm enough) and washed the grime from our skin, then gussied up a bit just because we felt like it. We smelled good, felt clean and tired in a wonderful way.
We chatted to our lover and laughed some more. We planned adventures in faraway lands that we’ve never been to. Then we talked to another friend in another faraway place that we were once before. We talked about going again, smelling the salt air and hearing the crashing waves and climbing to the tops of cliffs.
A bit later, we made a long grocery list with fresh ingredients — a change for us, because often we buy pre-prepared meals that involve nothing but a microwave warm-up. We drove to the store and fondled brilliant red peppers and soft peaches and shiny shallots. We made plans for our meal tomorrow, with loud music and olive oil and the fun of chopping vegetables that we’re not used to.
My body and I were good company today. We washed our head, we bathed our body and wore clothes that were sparkling fresh. We made plans to fill our stomach with delicious foods that we prepared with our own messy fingers and the help of all of our senses. We played. We sang. We worked. We laughed. We were joyful.
So often, this is not the case. So often, the ways in which our culture of luxury, of instant gratification, of faster and better and now now now speed us along past ourselves…they give the illusion of comfort, and of satisfaction, and each moment of quick pleasure leaches the life from us like dry soil.
I have been thinking about happiness these last few months, and I have realized that, in so many ways I have delegated my self care for the sake of convenience…and in doing so, have delegated my joy as well. Luxury is apathy if it’s done in perpetuity.
I’m writing this as a reminder to myself to be present, in *all* things.