I’m working on a book about the five senses, and how we can use our five senses to give us a sense of vitality and connection to the moment and to other people.
I’ve found that just as we can sometimes minister to the body through the spirit, sometimes we can minister to the spirit through the body.
I was very struck by this passage from Ann Patchett’s memoir Truth and Beauty: A Friendship (Amazon, Bookshop), about her enduring friendship with her friend, the writer and poet Lucy Grealy. Near the end of her life, Lucy Grealy was struggling with depression and addiction, and Ann Patchett describes how she tried to help:
I figured even if I couldn’t make Lucy deeply happy, I could provide the kind of happiness that would seem hollow if we had the money or the time to stay in it too long…I booked Lucy a massage and had her eyelashes dyed. I took her for a pedicure. I bought her the best pâté I could find in Nashville along with Spaghetti-O’s and Hungry Jack biscuits and everything else I knew she liked. We went to a bad movie and then stayed for a second bad movie. I took her shopping and bought her whatever she wanted. And she was happy, and I was happy.
As Ann Patchett points out, these kinds of activities would seem hollow if we pursued them too long—and yet it’s also true that that our bodies and our senses can be a source of profound comfort.