Simple pleasures, simple strengths

Monday, February 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:27 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 6, 2008

I truly believe that people who find joy in life’s simple pleasures are among the luckiest folks in the world. Among my friends and acquaintances, it seems the bird-watchers, quilters, gardeners, poets and others who court the gentler muses tend to roll with the punches at a less frenetic pace. While those caught up in the business of politics and economics appear to enjoy the pursuit of one rush of adrenaline after another, they seem to have a hard time dealing with life’s prickly thorns. Often, if at first things don’t succeed for them, there is no second chance.

I’ve always liked a world of second chances. Rejection, of course, is a way of life for writers. Some of the world’s most famous writers willingly admitted that they acquired enough rejection slips to paper the kitchen before they sold their first manuscript. It’s easy, in fact, to feel sorry for those who never failed at anything. Theirs tend to be the kind of tragedies from which it’s hardest to recover.

I think there is a connection between building one’s inner resources and applying one’s self to such tasks as watching paint dry. In our world where the ability to multitask is seen as a major accomplishment, I think the value of time spent in such pursuits as daydreaming is often overlooked. I agree that staring into space like many artistic types are prone to do will not make one rich, but as a spur to the imagination, sometimes it can’t be beat. I don’t think it’s an accident that people in possession of a lot of inner strength are often referred to as strong, silent types.

Time spent gathering wool is also good for healing sore spots. Every now and then, I encounter another person like me who takes a lot of world issues personally. I take all issues adversely affecting poor, sick and elderly people personally. I take all government policy that adversely affects the welfare of the people personally. It takes a lot of effort for me to remember sometimes that political leaders are also humans whom I am required to forgive, even if it takes the last modicum of kindness in my heart. It’s so much easier for me to forgive everyday people, who in the course of pursuing their own agendas sometimes say and do hurtful things or who sometimes betray or deceive people who love them, than it is for me to forgive people who take an oath of office to uphold certain principles and who purposefully break the oath. I think these people should be held to higher standards. In their cases, I have to work hard at forgiveness, and healing takes a longer time.

So, some days when I take my spade and dig dirt, I’m not just replacing dead plants, I am applying balm to my soul. While I observe a flock of red birds rummaging through the snow, I’m not just taking a mental photograph for future reference, I’m reflecting on those things that are lovely—to try to erase the ugliness off the surface of my being. As I consider the soapsuds I’m rinsing from a plate, I try to imagine the creeks and streams being cleansed of the pollutants with which we humans have so carelessly sought to poison the environment.

For most of us, maintaining a balanced life takes work. There are mornings when it would be a lot easier just to roll over and go back to sleep. But, still, there are moments, when the best favor we can do for ourselves is just to stop in our tracks and take stock of who we are and where we are going. I’m amazed at how people can get so easily caught up in activities that are not only destructive to their well-being but also unalterably opposed to their life philosophy. Often, it takes just one curve in the road to throw an individual off course. This is why I believe it is essential that one stay in touch with herself.

Those I know who take daily walks or spend time in meditation also seem to stay well-centered. I have acquaintances, though, who feel that these kinds of activities are a waste of time that could be better spent working on a money-making venture. Trying to convince these folks otherwise is a no-win battle.

It is foolish to insist that our values have not changed over the last few decades. So, it is difficult to criticize those who teach young people that they need to concentrate on their future finances. As much as most of us would like to encourage our children to pursue meaningful and productive lives, we certainly do not want them to starve to death in the effort.

Trying to maintain moral and ethical purpose while at the same time trying to earn a decent living has become a tricky business. Corporate America is not providing a good example. It’s questionable as to whether simplifying one’s life is even possible anymore.

Still, the fact is, we only have one life to live, and we each have to choose how to live it. What will it be? For better or for worse, and who will be the judge?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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