The Basics of Enjoyment (A Day with Thomas Traherne, Part 2)

The concept and practice of enjoyment are central to Traherne’s writing. The 2nd part of “A Day with Thomas Traherne,” is, therefore, focused on the idea of enjoyment itself. These are stepping stones that will lead you to a practice of enjoyment.

1. A Definition of Enjoyment.

From Webster’s Dictionary:

  • Enjoy: to have for one’s use, benefit, or lot: EXPERIENCE.
  • To take pleasure or satisfaction in

Enjoyment is an antidote to:

  1. Controlling things and people,
  2. Jealousy and envy,
  3. Depression,
  4. Lethargy, anxiety, and despair,
  5. Attachment

Esther de Waal, who captured the spirit of Traherne in her writings, said:

“The gift of sight was after all one of God’s earliest gifts to the earthling, the dust-person in the garden of Eden, and in Genesis we are given that first glimpse of the sight of beauty: ‘every tree that is pleasant to the sight.’ Did Adam and Eve at first enjoy those trees, and see them with wonder and delight, and did everything change with the desire to possess the fruit of the tree? Was that when things began to go wrong? Are we being told about the connection between wonder and delight and non-attachment – about standing back with reverence and awe and being aware of the destructive impulse of wanting to own and to control?” (Esther de Waal, Lost in Wonder, p. 57).

2.  The Philosophy of Enjoyment.

Philosophy is a ‘love of wisdom,’ and enjoyment is concerned with how we know. When we enjoy things, we know them. Enjoyment is a connection between the possessor (the knower) and the thing possessed (the thing known).

3.  C. S. Lewis & Enjoyment.

The idea of ‘enjoyment’ captivated C.S. Lewis in his years as a student at Oxford University. It was closely tied to the theme of ‘joy’, and played a central role in his autobiography. This may be part of why Traherne was one of C.S. Lewis’s favorite devotional and philosophical writers.

C.S. Lewis wrote the following, at the age of 31, in a letter to his best friend, Arthur Greeves:

“Almost ever since the Vac. began, I have been reading a little every evening in Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations (Dobell. About 7/–, Lovely paper). I forget whether we have talked of it or not. I think he suffers by making out everything much too easy and really shirking the problem of evil in all its forms: at least, as far as I have got, for it is unfair to say this of a book not yet finished. But apart from this he has extraordinary merits. What do you think of the following: — ‘The world. . . is the beautiful frontispiece to Eternity’ – ‘You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and croned with the stars. . . till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God as misers do in gold’ – ‘I must lead you out of this into another world to learn your wants. For till you find them you will never be happy’ – ‘They (i.e. Souls) were made to love and are dark and vain and comfortless till they do it. Till they love they are idle or misemployed. Till they love they are desolate.’ But I could go on quoting from this book forever.”

4. Enjoyment in the Book of Common Prayer.

The following excerpt is taken from “An Outline of the Faith commonly called the Catechism”, Section on God the Father, The Book of Common Prayer.

Q.  What do we learn about God as creator from the revelation to Israel?
A.  We learn that there is one God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

Q.  What does this mean?
A.  This means that the universe is good, that it is the work of a single loving God who creates, sustains, and directs it.

Q.  What does this mean about our place in the universe?
A.  It means that the world belongs to its creator; and that we are called to enjoy it and to care for it in accordance with God’s purposes.

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