The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. ~Robert Louis Stevenson
I’m no expert at interpreting RLS’s words but this quote speaks to me of the way being human, in its most fulfilling sense, unfolds naturally. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably experienced how easy it is to complicate being human. Any number of things can get in the way of us being as true to ourselves as possible. There’s fear. There’s doubt. There’s denial. There’s apathy. There’s ignorance. There’s apathy resulting from ignorance and vice versa. And so on and so forth.
But I suspect that when we commit to engage in our own lives, we can expect a certain degree of transformation that lets us access the value of what RLS refers to as the best things in life.
Some basic things that can be incredibly easy to complicate:
Friendship. For children, it’s as simple as There you are; let’s play. For grownups, other things come into play such as strings attached, an unspoken expectation of reciprocity and keeping score. Perhaps there’s a good reason for how grownups, communities, countries form alliances. But who says there needs to be a reason to be a friend?
Standing up for what’s right. Maybe we flip-flop and flail in the midst of a huge domestic or foreign policy issue where we don’t know all the facts. Maybe we flail when an unprecedented foreign policy issue makes the headlines. But I wonder if the most basic sense of right and wrong is or isn’t instilled in most of us. And if something isn’t looking so black and white with a little prodding, then perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to make judgments.
Apologizing for our fault(s). Pretend nothing’s wrong? Sweep it under the rug? Hope the offense goes unnoticed? Maybe. Except for a little thing called a conscience. It’s this pesky little thing that may keep us from getting a good night’s sleep if we know deep down that we owe someone an apology.
Acknowledging the world doesn’t revolve around any one person or one nation. For a four-year old, this is a real challenge. But as one’s ego develops, so does the Freudian super-ego evolve. We hope.
Love. If we want love, we give love. A whole bunch of people figured this out well before our generation. How we want love manifests in many ways; some peaceful, some violent. How we give love, how we feed and sustain the ticking of the metronome of the heart is a human capacity worth every poem ever penned, every lyric ever sung and every story ever told.
Maybe one day, we’ll learn to give love as much as we want love. And maybe then we can hope to truly simplify the complicated.
I’m sure I’ve missed some. Care to add anything?
Image by Thai Jasmine,