Bliss

Reading around in The New Yorker this week, we discovered a recent article about the late novelist David Foster Wallace who is quoted in the article as believing that true freedom, “means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to.”

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock's Oriole

That seems like pretty good advice.  So this morning we chose to pay attention to the year’s first oriole arrival.  Orioles get whiplash when they fly over anything containing grape jelly which is why we keep two feeders stocked with grape jelly.  Only grape jelly please, orioles don’t care about other flavors.  They don’t mind if a fresh orange is available to but it is the grape jelly that halts them in their tracks.

The orioles are following Joseph Campbell’s advice which was to “follow your bliss.”  But “bliss” is an awfully abstract noun upon which to base a life or a philosophy.  There is not much meat on that bone. We may know what it means to an oriole eating grape jelly, but it is more difficult to translate into living a meaningful, fulfilled human life.

But Wallace had something to say about that too. He came up with a pretty good definition of bliss; writing, “Bliss — a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious.” For Wallace, that was what lay on the other side of “crushing, crushing boredom.”

You can’t be bored while watching an oriole gobble down your grape jelly; if you are truly paying attention while you watch, you’ll know a moment of bliss.

Besides, you can follow up with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for yourself.

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Today marks the 39th Earth Day.  Here’s a reminder from an unknown Native American, “Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.”

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