“Exuberance is beauty” (William Blake).
WOULDN’T MOST OF US LIKE IT TO BE SAID THAT WE HAVE A “VIBRANT” CHARACTER? The word suggests a person who is active rather than passive, someone who is engaged with life, a human being who is awake, alive, and in love with the whole kit and caboodle of good things in the world — and that’s how we’d like to be.
But what’s the meaning of “vibrancy”? We probably know it when we see it, but what is it? It isn’t just a type of personality, although we often think of it that way. Properly understood, vibrancy is a quality of character. It’s not the sizzle but the steak, and it can be possessed by people with more than one type of personality. Indeed, some of the most vibrant people I know have personalities that would be described as shy. They shun the limelight and they do more listening than talking, but they still can be said to lead vibrant lives.
Vibrancy has to do with energy. It’s the intensity of the person who is genuinely, deeply, and inquisitively interested in life. The vibrant person cares passionately about his or her principles, values, and priorities, and this passion produces a way of living that has real impact for good on other people. Samuel Smiles put it this way: “It is energy, the central element of which is will, that produces the miracles of enthusiasm in all ages. It is the mainspring of what is called force of character and the sustaining power of all great action.”
If we’re not vibrant in our living of life, it’s a shame. It’s a shame because the world is so full of things that invite our engagement and energy. There are too many beautiful things not to be amazed by them. There are too many powerful things not to be awed by them. There are too many gracious things not to be humbled by them.
We need, as Arthur Gordon reminded us long ago, to “take our raincoats off in the shower.” Shedding the protective coverings within which we conceal ourselves so much of the time, we need to expose ourselves to all the exciting wonderment of life, letting it wash over us in all its refreshing variety. When we do, things will start to “vibrate” within us. And no matter what our personality might be, we’ll engage the world around us in a more powerful, and also a more grateful, way.
“And what is energy but liking life?” (Louis Auchincloss).