The day I walked into the woods above Lake Chickacoo, Thoreau under one arm and a canvass chair under the other, with an entire day lounging before me like Venus, was the day I again found the sweetness of being. There among the high-bush cranberries (viburnum trilobum) and old stands of birch (betula) I found bottom. And under the spell of a spring sky I knew that I knew more than I could tell.
On some level we will always be without words for such experiences, perhaps even struck dumb. What, after all, can you say about the ineffable? But to be struck dumb is also to be at risk of forgetting-by-not-naming. And here, forgetting is a small act of infidelity towards life.
To mindfully tag—not dissect—a sublime experience is not only to remember it, but in some way to surround it with your flesh—to call it back to you through your cells. Just as naming a fear clears a way for at least its partial management, so, naming a sublime emotion, a vertical moment, opens a pathway for its return. And wouldn’t it be glorious if we kept that path clear of debris? God knows—even though these are transient slices of time and therefore underscored by melancholy, inchoate sadness—all of us need more emotionally sublime moments…moments that is, of gaudium essendi, “the joy of existing.”
And we’ve all experienced gaudium essendi…that thing that comes in the ripple of time when you notice yourself catching of your breath at the smile of an infant. That joy-in-being you feel in the warm shiver that spreads through your nervous system while listening to a particularly fine melody progression.
Philosopher/playwright Gabriel Marcel, went so far as to call gaudium essendi a primordial fact. Raising “the joy of existing” as a potential existential proof of the Divine. I too think it’s possible to notice, even in that wake of emotional twilight following the prow of joy, that such an experience points to something beyond us, a something I name God.
And yet life comes, in its way, swinging its nooses. For sometimes, what Virgil called, lacrimae rerum, that is, the tears in things, comes to block gaudium essendi. This is spirit-soul deprivation.
I propose then, against this potential loss, and toward the health of our souls, that we employ the Latin phrase gaudium essendi. (It seems to me that Latin somehow lends itself to this particular process.) When next the time comes, when next the “relish of life” comes: name and remember…so to keep the path open for many returns.