A young boy discovers beauty and sense of joy…

From ‘A Severe Mercy’ by Sheldon Vanauken.

He remembered as though it were but a few days ago that winter night, himself too young even to know the meaning of beauty, when he had looked up at a delicate tracery of bare black branches against the icy glittering stars; suddenly something that was, all at once, pain and longing and adoring had welled up in him, almost choking him. He had wanted to tell someone, but he had no words, inarticulate in that pain and glory. (pg 16)

He had been wont to despise emotions: girls were emotional, girls were weak, emotions – tears – were weakness. But this morning he was thinking that being a great brain in a tower, nothing but a brain, wouldn’t be much fun. No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky – no feelings at all. But feelings – feelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions. But, then – this was awful! – maybe girls with their tears and laughter were getting more out of life. Shattering! He checked himself: showing one’s emotions more was not the thing: having them was. Still, he was dizzy with revelation. What is beauty but something that is responded to with emotion? … But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest. How did one find joy?… if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain… If there were a choice – and he suspected there was – a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths. (pg 17-18)

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