How does one fall in love with life?
A child finds enjoyment in the many forms of play that fill his days and revels in fun.
Pure, sheer enjoyment in the simple pleasures of childhood—outdoor games, sports, swimming, soccer, picnics, and vacations—provide the taste of goodness and the sweetness of life.
A young person growing up and experiencing the love of parents and grandparents and the close bonds of family members discovers the goodness of the family and the beautiful virtues of the heart: affection, kindness, charity, gratitude, loyalty, hospitality, and mercy.
To receive gifts at birthdays and Christmas, to feel special and the apple of someone’s eye, and to know the comforts and blessings of a happy home also inspire a love of life.
In love with play all day and in every season, the child in R. L. Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses says,
“The world is so filled with a number of things, / I think we should all be as happy as kings.”
Gerda and Kay in Hans Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” revel in the rose garden in the golden days of summer as they hold hands, kiss the roses, and speak to the sunshine as if they were seeing the Christ Child:
“What beautiful summer days they were; how lovely it was to be outside near the fresh rose-trees that seemed as if they would never stop blooming!”
Nothing could be more delicious than this feast of innocent fun in all the varied forms of goodness that surround the child.
The Little Mermaid – in Love with Life
In Hans Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” the youngest mermaid in a family of five sisters rises from her father’s kingly palace in the depths of the sea to view the human world for the first time.
At age fifteen she can choose to return to her home in the sea with her family or enter the human world. When she swims up from the ocean to behold the spectacle of human life, she looks with astonishment at the goodness of life in all its glory, variety, and richness.
After admiring the colors of the sunset and the shining stars, noticing the grandeur of mountains and the vastness of the woods, hearing the sound of music from a ship and the happy celebration of a birthday party, the Little Mermaid falls in love with life:
“She came to like people more and more, more and more she wished she could go up among them; their world seemed far greater than her own.”
While the Little Mermaid’s calm existence in the beautiful sea “with its wonderful blue glow” provides great comfort and happiness, it cannot compare with the fullness of joy the human world offers with the beauty of earth, water, and sky; with its bustling cities, great architecture, and magnificent sights; with its many festive occasions celebrated in song and birthday parties; and with all its beautiful people.
The Little Mermaid also falls in love with life by seeing the radiance of the good and the beautiful.
Experiencing the Taste of Goodness, Joy & Beauty
To fall in love as a young man or woman, to marvel at the gift of a husband or wife, and to know the joy of the gift of self and the oneness of marital union evoke wonder at heights of happiness that poets call the “ecstasy” of love—a dream come true, an answer to a prayer that surpasses all expectations.
To fall in love with life, a person needs to experience the taste of goodness, the joy of love, and the wonder of beauty.
Beholding Juliet and gazing at her beauty as love’s contemplative, Romeo marvels in awe at the miracle of her being: “O she doth teach the torches to feel bright . . . . Did my heart e’er love till now? . . . I n’er saw true beauty till this night.”
In Shakespeare’s The Tempest Ferdinand expresses the same sense of wonder at the splendor of love’s radiant purity: “But you, oh, you, / So perfect and so peerless, are created / Of every creature’s best.”
The vision of the beloved makes one grateful for the gift of life and inspires the gratitude of David in Psalm 23: “My cup runneth over.”
Apple Picking in Little Women
Enjoying the custom of the apple-picking holiday in New England, the March family in Little Women also gathers to celebrate Mrs. March’s sixtieth birthday party on this occasion—a time to celebrate both the harvest of the orchard and the fruitfulness of love.
As Mrs. March rejoices in seeing her whole extended family honor her on this festive occasion and beholds the happiness of her married children and the joy of her grandchildren, she feels a profound gratitude for the great blessings of her life—a great sense of fulfillment of the deepest desires of the heart: “Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this.”
Even at age sixty a grandmother falls in love with life yet one more time and feels moved to hear her daughter Jo remark, “I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world.”
To see the happiness of children and grandchildren and to know one’s humble role in contributing to all this lively mirth endears a person to life even more.
The Odyssey: Moments like Perfection
In the Odyssey Homer calls such moments “something like perfection.”
After receiving all the benefits of hospitality from his host King Alcinous—the bounty of good food, the pleasures of conversation, the music of the bard, the performance of the dancers, and the gracious courtesy of civilized manners—Odysseus thanks the king with his highest compliments:
“I myself feel that there is nothing more delightful than when the festive mood reigns in a whole people’s hearts and the banqueters listen to a minstrel from their seats in the hall, while the tables before them are laden with bread and meat, and a steward carries round the wine he has drawn from the bowl and fills their cups.”
He has tasted not only the roasted meat and the mellow wine, but also the fullness of life’s most exquisite pleasures in the form of beauty, art, and civility. To be touched by the bard’s storytelling, to be moved by the gracefulness of the dancers, to appreciate the savor of food and the sweetness of wine, and to know the warmth of the kindness of hospitality gives the taste of life’s sweetness.
As these examples illustrate, one must fall in love with life again and again, not just as a child. The child’s delight in the outdoors during the golden summer days, the lover’s wonder at the beauty of the beloved and the bliss of marriage, and the parent’s and grandparent’s blessing of a loving family all renew the heart and keep it young and spirited.
These experiences of the good, the pure, the beautiful, the true, and the holy always whet the appetite, nourish the desire, and fulfill the hunger for the love of life. In Shakespeare’s phrase, they make hungry where most they satisfy.
These moments all have the taste of the sweetness of the Lord. One wants to enjoy them more and more because of the inexhaustible joy and rich goodness they proffer throughout the course of a lifetime.
One falls in love with life, then, as a child, as a lover, as a parent, as a grandparent, as a guest, and as a human being. The fullness of life’s goodness requires a person to quench his thirst often from this overflowing fountain.
To taste the sweetness of the Lord or to enjoy “something like perfection” is always an occasion to anticipate with gladness, to savor with appreciation, and to repeat often.