The other day I was holed up in my room brooding about something — I think it was Descartes and guilt over my own slacker qualities. I was determined to be miserable until I had overcome my slackerness, but couldn’t manage to pull that off any more than I can actually worry too hard or actually stare into the abyss or actually feel guilty for more than a few minutes. So I went out to watch the sky. Sky watching is perhaps my favorite pastime for summer evenings, and is fairly popular around here. I went out onto the deck to pretend to myself that I was reading Descartes and watch the sky, which was magnificent. After about a minute I gave up the pretense, and just watched the sky, which was being very bright and lively at the time. There’s a proverb that says clouds have silver linings, but I don’t think so — sometimes they tend more toward gold, crimson, cerulian, magenta, and lava tinged linings, glowing with fire. I’m not sure what that means for the saying.
As I was standing out on the deck with Descartes in hand thinking: joy! Joy! Beauty! Hooray! it occurred to me that this might be analogous to something Christian speakers so often insist upon, which is, in its dingiest form “you can’t work your way to heaven,” and “salvation is a free gift.” I was undoubtedly guilty; my essay was absurdly late, I had been sitting around angsting slothfully all week, doing I know not what, and I don’t doubt that my first assessment was rather more just — that I deserved to sit miserably on an uncomfortable chair before a computer in a warm little room until I had made up the work. At the very least I might have stood in front of the lovely sky and dutifully brooded on metaphysics: perhaps it’s not a real sky; perhaps I’m being deceived! Nevertheless, things don’t seem to work that way. What? Look at a beautiful sky and think that!? Like the whole world is about me or something? That seems rather rude; it seems more like I have an obligation to appreciate things like skies, and be delighted by them, and try to appreciate how lovely they are, quite independently of any guilt I might have incurred in other areas. It’s no good adding to the sin of scholarly slackericity the additional sin of lack of delight in delightful things. So I admired said sky for fifteen minutes or so, and came back in to pretend to brood on metaphysics some more, much more cheerfully.