insight into or knowledge of a particular thing; enlightened intelligence.
a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture
One thing that has intrigued me for some time is the connection between understanding and delight. What I mean is that our potential for enjoying something is increased or decreased depending on our understanding of the thing. This has far-reaching implications, but I want to zero in on the realms of the arts and theology.
Understanding and Delight in the Arts
This principle of the relationship between understanding and delight has been brought home to me in many ways over the years, but it shows up most often when it comes to the arts. Let me give a few examples. As a Christian Hip-hop artist, I work closely with musicians for recording projects as well as live concerts. I don't consider myself a musician in the sense of being skilled with an instrument. My area of gifting is primarily in lyricism and writing. The band members that I've worked with over the years are fine musicians, but have little exposure to Hip-hop, so at times it's like two worlds colliding. I recall numerous occasions when we all would be listening to the same piece of jazz or gospel music. The band members would be going crazy during different parts of the song. They expressed their appreciation by rewinding it over and over, praising the skill of the instrumentalist, nodding their heads in approval, etc. To me, it sounded nice, but the fuss they were making about it seemed over the top. I just couldn't get into it like they did. This is because we were listening to the same thing, but with different ears. They were listening with the ears of professionally trained musicians. They heard nuances and subtleties that I could not appreciate. Unorthodox chord progressions, interplay between the drums and bass, skillful employment of technique and improvisation, etc. were lost on my untrained ears, but they picked those things up. And it was a source of enjoyment for them.
The same thing has happened when the emcees and the musicians have listened to the same Hip-hop song together. Many times, the emcees would be going crazy over what the lyricist is doing as the musicians sat with bored looks on their faces. Again, we were listening with different ears. The musicians hadn't been trained to hear and appreciate the complex multisyllabic rhyme patterns, interior rhyme schemes, vocal cadences and thematic continuity of the lyricist on the recording. All their ears could hear was what was or wasn't happening musically. This lack of understanding hindered their delight.
This principle can be demonstrated across the board. I'm reminded of a story that CJ Mahaney told in a message of his that I heard recently. He spoke of an experiment conducted by the Washington Post in which a world class violinist went into a subway in Washington D.C. during rush hour, pulled his violin (valued at over 3 million dollars!!!) out of the case and began playing classical songs. The night before, he had played the same exact songs at a sold-out Carnegie Hall in New York City with tickets starting at $100 each. The next day in the subway? Most people walked by, oblivious to the expert level of craftsmanship on display before them. A few of the violinist's fans were stopped in their tracks and received a delightful treat- once they got over their confusion. Again, the subway commuters did not have ears to hear the brilliance that was on display before them, and therefore could not appreciate or fully enjoy what they were hearing.
Earlier, I said that our potential for enjoying something is increased or decreased depending on our understanding of the thing. I qualified it by using the word "potential" for a reason. I don't believe that understanding equals delight in every case. One can have understanding of something without necessarily delighting in that thing at all. For instance, if I'm upset that my favorite sports team is losing the game, it's not my lack of understanding that is keeping me from enjoying it. (In fact, it could be that my understanding of the game is actually contributing to my lack of enjoyment at that point) Also, one could have an enjoyment level that doesn't measure up to their level of understanding, such as when someone becomes bored with something that they've heard (and understood) over and over. It's not a lack of understanding that's preventing enjoyment in that case, but over familiarity. However, our delight will never go beyond our level of understanding. Obviously, I can't enjoy what I don't know or understand.
With those qualifications out of the way, I'll close here. In part 2, I'll look at how this idea relates to God and our relationship with Him.
grace and peace,