(*Chloe Jon Paul, M.Ed., is a retired educator and author of the new book, \"Entering the Age of Elegance: A Rite of Passage & Practical Guide for the Modern Maturing Woman,\" from which this essay is an excerpt.*)
Many years ago, I heard a sermon that focused on attitude. The part I
especially remember dealt with how a person can greet a new day. One can
say: “Good God! Morning!\" or “Good morning, God!” The latter appealed
to me as a solid expression of a certain zest for life. Until then, I hadn’t
thought about whether this quality was apparent in my own life. Since
then, I have become more aware of its presence, not only in my life but in
the world at large.
Unlike patience, perseverance, and empathy, zest does not depend
upon certain circumstances to induce it. It is free-form and uninhibited;
suited to every moment and purpose. It is the “how” of intense, vigorous
pursuit of what is at hand: challenging the uncharted sea or simply smelling
Zest is the hallmark of athletes and mystics; prophets and politicians.
It deals with the manner and intensity in which things are done. It is not
confined to any particular ethnic group. Yet, there are groups who exhibit
it with a particular flair. Consider the Greeks and their wild plate-smashing
spectacles at a party. Plate-smashing for them is a fine indicator that
a good time was had by all. Have you ever watched Polish youth as they
stomp and shout through their endless polkas? Such revelry! Such gusto!
Religion and history are studded with personalities who displayed zest.
You can work your way through the Old Testament and David with his
marvelous psalms to St. Francis of Assisi with his passionate Canticle to
Brother Sun and find zest. Alexander the Great ruled with it. And what
about the Vikings and Columbus? Surely they explored with it. Our Pilgrim
Fathers, Revolutionary heroes, and western pioneers fashioned our
country in a spirit of zest and passion for life.
Zest can be readily identified in theatrical productions. Who can forget
the brawny, lusty Zorba in *Zorba the Greek* or Tevye in *Fiddler on the
Roof* with his rendition of “To Life”?
The relish for life comes through in the paintings of such masters as
Delacroix and Toulouse-Lautrec. Their style, color, and subject matter reflect
a keen enjoyment of what they observed and perceived.
One’s spiritual life can be lived with zest as well. That venerable Benedictine
monk, Dom Hubert Van Zeller, had the formula for it in his book,
*We Die Standing Up*.
Sports and zest are easily correlated. We see it on the tennis courts,
on the football fields, and across the land with countless Little League
There are myriad musical compositions that must be played with
zest: Italian tarantellas, Jewish horas, national anthems, and military
The Madison Avenue guys and gals have cornered the market and
popularized it in their commercials. The Pepsi generation drinks with it;
Old Milwaukee Beer fans go whaling with it; and odor-conscious people
shower with it.
Life without zest is drab and uninviting; with it, satisfying and colorful.
I have come to believe those persons who cultivate it are blessed with gratification in all that
can be felt and accomplished in the daily celebration of life.
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