Gospel Lk 4:24-30. No prophet is ever accepted in his own country
“What makes you FEEL GOOD? (photo here of slim good-looking people having great fun). It could be a regular running session, or perhaps you’re more the ‘bath and a book’ type. Take time out every day to focus on you”.
I pass on this advice from Marks and Spencer that sneaked into my email today. Maybe it needs qualification, but I am not condemning it outright. A puritanical rejection of all forms of pleasure is unChristlike. Another rabbi once said that on the day of judgement we will be held to account for every legitimate pleasure we did not accept. An accepting  attitude to pleasure and pain feels closer to moral and spiritual health; but it also demands more discretion and even self-discipline than a fundamentalist fear of ‘feeling good’ in a sensory sense.
Especially during Covid time, when so many simple pleasures have been taken out of our reach and criminalised outside safe bubbles, feeling good in this ordinary sense should not be seen as a problem. People have found other ways to find or intensify pleasure to compensate. I saw a man’s face transfigured by his daily zoom with his grandson before the boy goes to bed. Many people, myself excluded, have found intense pleasure in a daily dip in freezing water, which they often refer to as a spiritual awakening. I found a more nutritional pleasure in my hermitage by discovering I could cook stir-fry, which previously I had thought very specialised and beyond my skillset.
Under extremely difficult conditions people can often find great pleasure in childlike and ordinary ways. While commuting between the internment camps for Jews under Nazi rule, until her own eventual train-ride to death, Etty Hillesum described the blissful pleasure she derived from observing flowers in Springtime or brief exchanges with the families she was helping. Finding such pleasures help restore us with a newfound feeling of innocence which is energising and relieves any burden of oppression, guilt or shame we may have been carrying. The advertisement I received was for pleasures bought by card online and so don’t refer to the ones that emerge graciously from the fabric of daily life. The old adage ‘the best things in life are free’ doesn’t fit most marketing strategies.
Maybe one post-Covid day the pleasure of being restored to peace and wholeness through meditation may be added. The blurb above might then read: What makes you feel good? It could be a regular running session. Or perhaps you are a bath and book person. And, of course, your daily meditations. Take time out every day to feel really good by taking the attention off yourself.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021