Thursday, April 12, 2012

Joy (Ecclesiastes 11:7)

                  Light is sweet;
                   it is a pleasant thing to feast one’s eyes on the sun!
Ecclesiastes 11:7

      Jesssie’s Joy by Jessie E. Brown, available at

Qoheleth, the traditional name given to the sage of Ecclesiastes, is no one’s fool. He knows the score – life is empty and fleeting, and then you die. So it is surprising when the cynical Qoheleth speaks of a “sweet” and “pleasant” moment. 

In the context of the philosophy of this work of scripture we might expect the pleasurable moment to be represented by a weightier dynamic then mere sunlight. We would expect Qoheleth to be pleased by a life that is successful and impacts the local community, if not all of society. We would expect Qoheleth to take pleasure in that which lends itself to permanency and has lasting consequences. Sunlight is a gift so mundane that most of the time we scarcely think of it as a gift. Yet, it is the simple presence of sunlight which moves Qoheleth to joy. In the realm of those who enjoy a little kink this would be the equivalent of being spanked by joy.

I am challenged by this passage. When will I know joy? When I have legal protection? When I am no longer feared as the “other”? When shame is not attached to my sexual orientation? The biblical scholar Ellen David reminds us that the longer we wait on some great occasion for joy the less likely we will be able to recognize it when it happens.  

This despairing sage speaks of pleasure not at the end of some triumph, but in the midst of weariness and gloom. He says to me “Look, look at the gift of light. Isn’t it marvelous that in the midst of all the self-serving and narcissistic injustice there’s something that simply is and brings pleasure to the tired soul?” By linking joy with light Qoheleth tells us that joy like light is a vital force of life.

It takes courage and fortitude to rejoice when you are disempowered and unloved. Hence, Qoheleth’s sage advice is much needed for those who self-identify as LGBTQIA. The impulse within us for joy is all the sanction we need to claim the abiding transformative joy of the simple pleasures that cannot be denied us.


  1. Each moment should be lived as it is. Reflecting on my past married life (39 years) with five kids, the most memorable moments of sheer pleasure and joy are not the big vacations, the special planned celebrations, but rather, the simple moments which were short-lived but really raised you up in happiness. A captured glance of people laughing, weeping, celebrating or mourning - or just sitting together in small talk which erupted into exuberance, these remain to hearten. Same true holds on the new path as a free gay man - living openly without pretenses with my partner - these are the "stuff" of memories - my new joy. Namaste...David

  2. dave446 - I'm thinking you should write this blog:) In three sentence you said more eloquently what I fumbled around for five paragraphs to say. Thanks