A good day happens when we are able to get outside ourselves. The other day I saw a trailer for a movie (or was it reality TV?) in which a young woman said, “I’m the center of the universe.” Most of the time we all think we’re the center of the universe, but that’s not a helpful view when it comes to living a contented life, because the universe doesn’t respond to our every whim, and when this happens we become disappointed.
I’ve noticed that retirement gives me a little more time and many fewer responsibilities and these conditions allow me an occasional peak into a world in which I am not at the center. Interestingly, it is these moments — when I notice the shimmer of a hummingbird’s irridescent plumage, the way light and shadow sprinkle the underside of the foliage of a tree, or a forest that contains every shade of green — when I feel joy. They last for only an instant, but in those instants I am completely outside myself.
An article in the newsletter Thirty Thousand Days — “Zen in the Art of Sherlock Holmes” — by minister Stephen Kendrick emphasizes this point. Kendrick praises the famous fictional detective for finding meaning in small details, paying attention to what he sees, observing what no one else sees in the obvious, and presuming nothing. Kendrick says, “True enlightenment means a deeper appreciation of the very life in which we find ourselves.” He adds that the Holme’s “stories are, at last, not just about apprehending criminals, but about apprehending reality.” And all this time I believed Sherlock Holmes to be an arrogant genius who was just showing off, yet another example of placing oneself in the center of the universe.
My middle-schoolers, I can assure you, are all resting squarely in the centers of their universes. There’s something almost comforting about it. I hate to have to blow away the smoke and break the mirrors, but that’s what I must sometimes do.
The unhappiest, most forlorn people I know are the ones who live only for themselves. How ironic that they search endlessly for happiness, when happiness is a by-product of thinking about others, or appreciating the natural world, or considering some crazy idea, or just observing the beauty of the passing day. This brief statement is one of your best, Ann. Lovely writing.