Why do we enjoy some things and not others? I don’t know. Why do I enjoy building things, playing strategy games, and washing dishes, but don’t particularly enjoy planning out a garden, craft-making, or cooking?
Why do I enjoy listening to others play guitar but struggle to find enjoyment in playing my own? If I enjoyed it more, I might enjoy getting better, thus adding to the enjoyment.
I imagine it’s a combination of conditioning, genetics, and…cultivated capacity – or something like that. I’ve been thinking about that last one more and more during the pandemic. With regular activities and routines thrown out of whack or just cancelled, one ponders the question of enjoyment. What do I have to do to make life work right now, and what might I do simply because I enjoy it, and is there a way to better enjoy the necessary stuff?
I like that enjoyment has joy at its core, and that this is recognized as having spiritual significance, as in “the fruits of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5. The joy in enjoyment involves some kind of deeper communion, a spiritual connection, with that thing or person or activity one is enjoying. Sometimes this takes hard work to get to that point. That said, I’m hesitant to overemphasize the spiritual component since one of the indicators of depression is a draining of enjoyment from life. The too-frequent association of depression with a spiritual failing is bad theology and psychology.
I recently heard a favorite podcaster share a quote from author Kurt Vonnegut that fits well into this conversation. Vonnegut describes a pivotal conversation in his life – about enjoyment – that changed his whole outlook. It is below.
May being Awake in the Dark this Advent season involve old and new forms of enjoyment, and if you feel drained of enjoyment, may you find a spark of comfort in the thought that you are not alone.
Kurt Vonnegut once wrote (sorry I don’t know the source):
When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes. And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.” And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.” And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.