Fairly Spiritual: Children at play provide insight into the nature of joy

It is important we do our best to catalogue moments of joy. We must write joy down and proclaim joy to those who will listen. We need records of joy, monuments of joy, places of joy we can revisit. We must contend for joy, or the bitter water will overwhelm us all.

Last night my two little boys turned joy into a dance. Nathaneal is seven and Samuel is three. Each boy has his own personality. They are not opposites, but they are by no means the same. Rather, they express wildly unique mixtures of nature, nurture, and mystery. They are authentically themselves, wonderfully different, and easy to love.

Although each boy exists within his own space, I love to watch them as a duo. Yesterday was a blurry, drizzly day. I stumbled through the day with hazy resilience, completing a list of mundane tasks in half hour intervals. By evening, I abandoned the list, settled into the living room couch and watched as my children orbited about me.

My boys were particularly charged with an energy that defied their caloric intake. Sam had turned a half eaten piece of toast into pure energy. Consequently, he was running up and down the hall as if it were a race track and I was the grandstand. Every pass he would acknowledge the crowd. Nathan, on the other hand, would wait between laps at the coffee table, then suddenly jump out and impede Samuel’s progress.

Sam’s reaction varied with each lap and with the intensity of Nathan’s hug, tickle, or tackle. It was one of those moments when parents have a difficult time determining whether their children are playing or fighting. Laughter turned to screams, screams turned to giggles, and every time I intervened, both boys looked at me puzzled and confused as if I didn’t know the rules to the game.

Even so, the energy began to escalate and I was certain this ruckus of boyish fun would eventually end with someone losing their temper. So as a preemptive intervention I disrupted their game with my favorite technique. “Why don’t we listen to some music?”

With the click of an upbeat song, the energy in the room shifted from race track brawl to jump around dance party. My two distinctively unique boys each thoroughly embraced the beat and began to dance. Their untrained forms twirled, hopped, skipped and swayed in rhythmic interpretation. Unembarrassed, unashamed, and untouched by the lethargy of cynicism, my boys danced pure joy!

Joy! That’s what I saw before me. Joy, in bodily form. Joy, in the flesh, set to music, dancing before me at the end of a blurry day.

As I sat there on the couch, reflecting on the glory before me, I began to contemplate the permanence of joy. “I wonder if that is still in me? Do we lose our joy, forget our joy, or is it hidden deep within us?”

The scientist in me began to assess the joyless reality of so many of my contemporaries. The poet in me began to lament the loss of such beauty. But the fool in me momentarily entertained the possibility that this joy is still present and accessible. Maybe there is still a dancing, hopping, skipping, twirling joy deep within this blurry man.

I quickly shook away the notion. That’s a ridiculous thought Doug, a childish thought. Only a silly little boy would think such things.

At that thought, my heart leapt with joy!

Doug Bursch hosts “The Fairly Spiritual Show” at 6 p.m. Saturdays on KGNW 820 AM. He also pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at the Riverside High School Theater. He can be reached at www.fairlyspiritual.org or doug@fairlyspiritual.org.