The necessity (and ethics) of delight


“…and it was an illumination — one of those things one has always known, but never really understood before — that all sanity depends on this: that it should be a delight to feel the roughness of a carpet under smooth soles, a delight to feel heat strike the skin, a delight to stand upright, knowing the bones are moving easily under flesh. If this goes, then the conviction of life goes too.” -Doris Lessing, from The Golden Notebook

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately–the ethics of subjective personal choices about how to live, particularly in light of ongoing systemic injustice and horror in the collective sphere, our objective political (and environmental) circumstances. Doris Lessing gets at something in the quote above that can be difficult to formulate privately or articulate publicly: that private delight, the capacity to delight in ordinary beauty, the willingness to not squander ordinary pleasure, might be a necessary precondition for the resilience (her word: “sanity”) necessary to make anything better instead of making it worse, politically and otherwise.

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