In Defense of Delight

I’m in an apartment kept at 77 degrees hanging out with a woman who, the first time she voted, voted for Franklin Roosevelt. I’m supposed to write a blog about delight because I’m teaching a workshop on delight in a few weeks–delight as an essential element in the creative process. For me, it’s been hard to think about delight as an essential element in the creative process for the past several days.

Delight is about noticing things. Not being complacent. To experience delight one must be delightin the habit of experiencing. That, that not being complacent, that being open to the possibility of different, noticing subtlety and taking the opportunity to make delight when tiny or large opportunities present themselves, that feels essential.

All day I’ve been working and wandering in and out of a Marx Brothers marathon running on TCM (Turner Classic Movies.) Groucho’s got his butt stuck out, sucking on a cigar or a horse drawn buggy races a train or endless people stuff into a room or a harp (harp!) solo or…Truth is I’ve never loved the Marx Brothers. Appreciated them, yes, but not loved them. Tonight, though, when I paused to watch the climax of Night at the Opera I found so much to want to emulate. I watched  with a woman who voted for Roosevelt and, tonight, started in on the Thanksgiving pie early, a woman who knows the importance of delight in keeping your head up. For a half hour the brothers kept conking the bad guy on the head and the orchestra dueled with their bows and then it became clear that all the ridiculousness really had been in the name of great opera and Verdi comes swelling up out of the TV and then the brothers are doing a bit about making a contract and the whole movie, all the site gags and puns, the young lovers in distress and the stow aways trying to get into the country, it all ends with a duet from the opera Pagliacci (clowns!) that gave me shivers.

And why not? Why not when you have an opportunity, why not offer such delight? Why not have a story of young lovers and young artists in distress, immigrants seeking a new country, false beards, too many people crammed in a room, and Ruggero Leoncavallo? What a thing. All this delight. All of this noticing. All of this filling in the spaces with the unexpected? All this demanding that artists and audiences be not complacent. I can’t actually think of a earthreason that we should not seek this noticing and being noticed, but I can think of lots of reasons why we should.

In their wisdom, TCM followed up the Marx Brothers marathon with a documentary about the Apollo missions. The documentary was  footage of delighted astronauts spinning flashlights around in zero gravity and then footage of astronauts watching earth, earth so bounded by space and so unbounded on its surface. They watched with an emotion that involved delight. I think the emotion might have been grace.

So. Let’s find delight for it is essential.

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