Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ponder: The Unbought Grace of Life

It was with the advent of modernity, and of what we call “the Enlightenment,” that a decisive change comes, creating the idea of happiness that dominates our own time— an idea which envisions happiness as something that all human beings can rightly aspire to, in the here and now, without resort to world-denying asceticism, as a natural expression of their natural human endowment... What does this suggest about joy, and about what makes joy so dramatically different? To begin with, it suggest that joy is something radically different precisely in that it is free from the self-mastering, self-engineered, and self-referential character of happiness. Joy is perhaps a little bit more akin to ecstasy in that regard, that it places a much lesser emphasis on self-consciousness and self-direction, and a greater emphasis on self-yielding, on emptying the ego of its compulsion to direct and manage all things, and reveling in the world as it presents itself to us. It is less about action than passion, less about possessing and more about being possessed, less about human ingenuity and more about what Edmund Burke called “the unbought grace of life.”

Wilfred McClay, "Some Reflections on Joy, Happiness...and Guilt" (2014)

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