As a grad student in Counseling Psychology, I sat cross-legged on shag carpet with my supervising professor who was reviewing notes while she ate a candy bar. I don’t remember whether it was Butterfinger or Baby Ruth, but it must have been good. “Man,” she said, rolling her eyes. “That was orgasmic!”
Weird, was all I thought at the time.
The exclamation, or expulsion as it were, was an odd expression for a professor—hippie-cool at best, inappropriate at worst. Something about the juxtaposition of the adjective orgasmic against that run-of-the-mill, 7-Eleven noun candy bar has stuck with me ever since.
Last fall, the aspens held their yellow as I arrived for a Colorado retreat led by The Allure of Hope author Jan Meyers. (Meyers did not eat a candy bar that I recall.) She did, however, talk about orgasm. More specifically, she discussed extasis, or the state of being outside of oneself. Orgasm is just one example. Experiences of beauty or pleasure transport the soul, as if away from the body, in a rapture of delight.
A medical journal from 1866, defines ecstasy this way: “In this condition, the mind, absorbed in a dominant idea, becomes insensible to surrounding objects.”
Centuries earlier, John Locke said in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, “Whether that which we call Extasie, be not dreaming with the Eyes open, I leave to be examined.” In aspen-drenched Colorado, Meyers reminded me that God loves ecstasy—pleasure, beauty, passion, play.
Years ago, I received an invitation to play. Here’s how it happened.
A dancer friend, her face like a kid’s in a candy store, showed me a statue. It was an elegant, silvery metal carving of a beautiful woman. My friend claimed God gave her this icon representing His pleasure in her dancing. No fair, I immediately thought, before I caught myself and morphed my first reaction into something more spiritual like, I, too, would be blessed by a token of your favor, Lord.
After that, I was on the hunt. I scavenged malls and galleries with the hunger of a new writer desperate for encouragement. Is that it? I asked God. Is that my icon?
One day, rounding the corner of a downtown city block and checking my watch, I was distracted by some Mexican pottery, garish as a child’s scribble, glaring from a shop window. I hurried past. Then I stopped. I shook my head. Seriously, Lord?
I knew I’d found it. My divinely appointed icon was a grinning ceramic monkey holding aloft a little blue pot in his yellow hands. Okay, I get it. I play. You fill my cup.
Play. Pleasure. Ecstasy.
I crave the extasis I experience in the creative act. I play like a child—all skips and scrapes—and I am propelled from the commonplace. I am beckoned, transported, outside of myself into mystery.
Anne Lamott was perhaps more apropos than she realized when she said, “[I]t is only when I go ahead and decide to shoot my literary, creative wad on a daily basis that I get any sense of full presence.”
“Yes,” my professor would say, licking her fingers. “It’s better than candy.”
Britt Tisdale has written for publications including Leadership, Group, Ignite Your Faith, Rock & Sling, and a forthcoming southern writers anthology. She graduated from Seattle Pacific with a MFA (Fiction) last week, and continues her work as a mental health counselor/creativity consultant in downtown Orlando, Fla. Britt is a bit too ecstatic to connect with anyone interested in her first novel Arden Alive, but she’ll try to calm down. You can find her at www.alivestudios.net.