“Everything flows”, was said in antiquity. Things are constantly changing… Time is nothing but a succession of fleeting moments, which we cannot stop and make permanent. As a character from a book I love puts it, “you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence.” It is “the only time you are alive” (Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter).
But there are things that can give the life you live a feeling of solidity, permanence, purpose, peace, serenity. Here are some of them, and perhaps you could add to the things listed here:
slow down on purpose, taking the time to really notice the things, the people, the creatures around, the various colors and sounds;
choose quiet over noise and frenzy – turn off that music, movie, TV show, radio program… Log out of Facebook/ Skype/ Yahoo Messenger/ etc. every once in a while. “Live a three-dimensional life; stay away from screens.” (Wendell Berry) Savor the sound of silence… Give yourself a chance to commune with your own thoughts and memories;
as much as possible, renew contact with nature – even if you live in the city and can’t take the time off to go on vacation somewhere, take regular breaks to notice the blue of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, the feel of the wind on the skin, the fluttering of a bird, the smell of grass or flowers… Nature has a way of refreshing our modern, agitated minds;
train yourself to find things, however small, for which to be grateful. Life has enough trials and sorrows from which we often cannot escape, but they are usually mingled with blessings, however small, which we tend to take for granted. Naming them, counting them one by one can brighten up your outlook significantly;
find something creative to do with your hands just for the joy of it – to eventually make something you can be pleased with, whether it’s something you eat, wear, put on a wall in your home or give as a gift;
take even a few moments to read something each day – not magazines or journals, but a real ink-and-paper book… Why not even delight yourself with a poem? It can be a lovely taste to cultivate;
renew the connection with your roots – people you love, who can share their inspiring memories from older times with you while they are still around, and old things, which, in spite of dents and scratches, have a beauty and a mystery of their own;
as much as you can, seek beauty in everything you do – not as a burden, but as a joy. You love to drink a good cup of coffee? Dress worthy of it, to fully savor the moment, and drink it in a pretty cup;
try to anchor all you do in eternity, to see each act you perform as having significance because it is part of something that will last… Seeing things in this perspective can give the most mundane task dignity and beauty. (Seeking God… not as a means to something else, but as an end, ultimately gives so much meaning to life… For better or for worse, the choices we make now do impact eternity.)
Why do people often feel a longing for times gone by, for vintage things, for antique objects, for places where to escape from their daily living?
Old things are more beautiful
than many things brand new
Because they bring fond memories
of things we used to do.
Old photographs in albums,
love letters tied with lace
Recapture those old feelings
that new ones can’t replace.
Baby shoes, a teddy bear,
a ring that grandma wore,
Are treasures waiting there
behind a door marked “Nevermore”.
Old things are more beautiful,
more precious day by day
Because they are the flowers
we planted yesterday.
Life was never perfect and to expect that in other periods it was idyllic is not truly realistic. But I believe that there is something in us that longs for some measure of simplicity, harmony, quietude… for times when work was hard, but there was still time to walk, to stay connected to nature, to tell children stories and to share in their wonder, to call on friends, to write and receive lovely handwritten letters … For the good kind of tiredness coming at the end of a day of work, together with the satisfaction of things done well, as opposed to just feeling worn out physically and mentally, because of the constant assault of noise and distraction, of the constant rush of modern life… while the precious moments that make up our life slip through our fingers, unnoticed…
Let us not try to live in the past, but rather to so live the here and now that we will create those precious memories that can bring joy and delight to us and our dear ones … adding up to a lifetime lived well.