“And God saw that it was good, indeed it was very good! This tells us how God feels about us and the world and it contains the implication that we should feel the same way about ourselves and the rest of the world … “good, very good!”
This is the primary creational and anthropological affirmation within all of scripture and its challenge is as far-reaching as it is (when examined in the light of our actual lives) startling. To believe that our world and we are good, very good; to take delight in our lives and in each other; to live lives that radiate joy rather than depression, boredom, and resentment; well … that sounds simple and easy, but remains a rare thing that’s seldom accomplished.
How many people do you know who actually take delight in their lives, in their families, in their spouses, in their friends? The rule is more depression. Rather than feeling delight and joy in our lives and our relationships we feel boredom, resentment, paranoia, jealousy, possessive clinging, or a sense of guilt or threat. Delight is rarely the word which describes what we feel about anything. Sadly, too, rather than helping create delight around us, we more commonly kill it. We tell our children to shut up and stop making so much noise when they are enthusiastic and full of life and we generally feel the delight and laughter of others as a threat to our drabness and deadened sense of delight. Shouts of laughter, joy, and delight, tend to irritate us bringing a “will you shut up” reaction rather than a calling to delight in the fact that “it is good, very good!”
After childhood, we rarely find it easy to delight in anything. Yet delight, along with gratitude, is the primary religious virtue, and is the deepest root of all love, friendship, sexuality, family life, community, passion, and enthusiasm. All of these, if they are not to die, must be a constant source of delight.
When delight is lost in love, friendship, sexuality, genitality, family life, community life, or our jobs and vocations, then depression, resentment, and self pity take over and these soon enough tell love, friendship, sexuality, genitality, family, community, and creativity what we tell over-enthusiastic children, namely, to “shut up! When joy breaks down, eventually everything breaks down. When we stop blessing (which means precisely to affirm and delight in someone’s joy, beauty, and creativity) we immediately begin to curse. To meet beauty, joy, laughter, and creativity with affirmation, to bask in them, to delight in them, is to bless. Any other response is a curse that brings death and is, in the truest meaning of that word, necrophilia, preferring to love to what’s dead rather than what’s alive!
Why do we do that? Why, when our deepest desires are for delight and joy, do we constantly kill them within ourselves and within others?
A simplistic line of argument suggests that the whole root of this lies is a distorted image of God. Simply put, this argument says that our past religious training injected into us the notion of an angry, defensive, anti-erotic, anti-enjoyment god who is threatened and angry when we are happy and experience pleasure so that every time we thoroughly enjoy something we feel like we are stealing pleasure from God.
There is some truth in that, though not nearly as much as many think. Given that the propensity to curse delight rather than bless it is as stronger (or stronger) in persons who have journeyed far from the influence of the distorted religious training just mentioned, one suspects that the real culprit is more psychological than religious, namely, wounded narcissism.
We curse joy rather than bless it because we have been cursed rather than blessed whenever we manifested it (especially when we where very young). We don’t take delight in ourselves and the world and we don’t feel like they’re “good and very good” because too few persons ever took delight in us and too few persons ever told us that we were “good and very good!” We tell over-enthusiastic children to “shut up” because, when we were over-enthusiastic children, we were told to “shut up”!
The most important challenge that all of us face in life, religiously and psychologically, is to overcome this and to bless rather than to curse! When we look at a child in a high chair joyously smudging its face with food, when we hear the over-enthusiastic noise of children shouting, and whenever we feel (in love, friendship, sexuality, genitality, community, or creativity) the power, beauty, and pleasure of life, we must respond with delight … saying: “God, it’s good, it’s so good!” Then, and only then, are we honoring our Creator, honoring ourselves, and moving beyond necrophilia to make love to what’s truly alive.