John read the fourth Psalm to me tonight. It is one of our rites– il faut des rites, as the fox says to the Little Prince, and I quite agree. As he read it I remembered that the fourth was a favorite of Augustine’s (The Confessions, Book IX). Particularly haunting to me tonight was verse 7: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”
Lately, in addition to taking to a number of sordid addictions (chocolate and wine and episodes of Sex and the City), I have also taken to envying my friends who have nicer cars, better jobs, etc. than I do. This is not a pleasant path to travel down, because I drive a ’92 corolla that is badly dented. And I am unemployed (ok, in grad school, but basically unemployed). So it is not difficult to find someone who is doing better than me. People who have retirement funds already, who drive cars less than 15 years old, who own cute shoes and can afford vacations. But can there really be a deeper joy than that which comes from abounding grain and wine– from money and cars and Banana Republic fall wardrobes? The grain and wine will come and go; Augustine knows that the pleasures of the world don’t go deep enough for the kind of joy we require. Still, I keep coming back to this: why don’t I feel the joy of the fourth psalm? Why is it such a struggle…? Maybe because I keep thinking of joy as something that I internally create? The psalmist says that God put the joy in his heart– it wasn’t automatically there, conjured up through the power of positive thinking. God, put joy in my heart. Give me what I can’t conjure up or create. Give me joy. Amen.