Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more
beautiful than sadness. Once you embrace this all
important discovery, you must embrace joy as a
moral obligation …

What I dislike least in my former self are the
moments of prayer

André Gide
Autumn Leaves

Strange that a French philosopher should “turn up” whilst I’m rowing in the gym! Except it’s not. Part of the point of the rowing – undemanding enough, “good all-round training” for the body, back and forth, back and forth – is that it affords daily opportunities for precisely such “arrivals”! And to use a bit of cut and paste: what I dislike least [about said rowing] are the moments of prayer.

What strikes me here each morning, alongside the physical exertion and the mental clear-out, is that it’s a cheerful place. I grinned at a guy today who had just spent an impossibly uncomfortable five minutes hanging suspended by up-stretched arms and heaving his own weight up and down, up and down … and wondered why he didn’t stick with the more stately rowing machine. But he grinned back with joy-filled countenance. He was, I thought, “in touch with Source”. Fully alive. Present – what for me, on the rower, is a form of prayer.

Joy, morning by morning, is not so very rare, not even so very difficult, certainly more beautiful than sadness. It’s an unearned gift, something, as C S Lewis implied, that one is surprised by, something that Gide says, is an “all-important discovery” and one “you must embrace”. Or be embraced by. Day by day: open to the need for good maintenance of the body, and open to equal need for good maintenance for the soul.