The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty - 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel - Tiffany Watt Smith 2016
In the exquisite, jewel-like miniatures that appeared in the printed books of fifteenth-century Persia, water cascades in the background, music drifts through the scented air, flowers bloom in ornamental beds while lovers seduce one another. No holy scripture paints such a seductive portrait of the delights of paradise as the Qur’an, and the most commonly used word to describe paradise is al-jannah, or garden. In other cultures too, gardens are images of luxury and lightness. From the Zen rock gardens of ancient Japan to Hieronymus Bosch’s strawberry-drenched The Garden of Earthly Delights, images of the garden are inseparable from the glistening of pure sensory presence, and a feeling of spiritual release.
Delight is close to rapture. The hands clap, the eyes sparkle, the lips tingle into a smile. For the eighteenth-century English philosopher John Locke, delight was one of the four essential feelings out of which the complexities of all human emotions flourished (the others were pleasure, pain and uneasiness). Delight comes from the Latin delectare (to allure, to charm, to entice away), and Locke described it as a kind of shimmering seduction. It was, he said, that intangible thing that caused a person to say they “love” something: as in “I love the apple tree” or “I love the sky.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the change of spelling during the sixteenth century from the older “delite” to the modern “delight” was the result of an accident. But as is so often the case, the mistake captures the essence of the thing: luminosity and weightlessness seem to be at the heart of delight, that most of all, makes one feel like flying.
See also: LOVE; EUPHORIA.