The Joys of Simple Pleasures
It’s been a rough week. I won’t be so unspeakably arrogant as to bore you all with the details, but in brief the last few days have been challenging. To be completely truthful it’s been a rough few years. Like most of the Millennial generation I imagined that adulthood would be an amazing experience. Sure, I expected that I would have to work hard and be challenged at times, but I also swallowed the line endlessly repeated to me that if I did so and followed my interests success would inevitably follow and everything would just work itself out. The reality has been a somewhat different experience.
I won’t waste too much ink on the details, as I have no doubt everyone is well acquainted with them. High student debt and unemployment, low economic growth and prospects of things improving. There are times when it feels that somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention, the rules of the game were fundamentally changed and both myself and my generation at large have been catch-up ever since. Where before there was certainty, now everything seems to be uncertain. Once I felt I had a straight path, now life feels like a maze.
Looking at the wider world is even more saddening. War, disease, and natural disaster seem to be lurking in every corner of the globe. Christians are being beheaded and crucified and burned alive throughout the Middle East, little girls in African are being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, Eastern Europe is being ensnared behind a new Iron Curtain, and we here in the West seem to be entirely impotent when it comes to doing anything to stop it. Reading the newspapers has becoming an exercise in depression, and at times I wonder if this was how the ancient Romans felt centuries ago as the barbarians crept ever closer to their gates while they distracted themselves from their impending doom with endless rounds of bread and circuses.
I shouldn’t complain too much. I certainly recognize I have it more fortunate than most. I have a job, and a good one too by the standards of the times. My salary might entirely be consumed by the demands of day to day living, student debt repayments, and saving for my inevitable retirement, but I am able to live off of it and in doing so avoid going even further into debt as so many of my peers seem to do. As bleak as the future may look concerning the world at large, I can at least assure myself that I have won the lottery as far as geography and geopolitics are concerned. If Canada ever falls victim to the forces of blood and steel then it’s a sign that the new Dark Ages have enveloped every last corner of the world, in which case there’s no point fretting over it as we might as well all devote ourselves to learning how to grow beets in our bathtubs and perfecting the finer points of bow hunting.
But there is a certain bleakness that comes from recognizing the world as it is. I’ve long since realized that I will never be famous or particularly rich or important at all in any significant sense of the word. I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’ll never change the world or achieve anything that will be remembered once my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances has passed from this earth. Indeed, I’ve even grudgingly accepted that I probably won’t have the opportunity to achieve the basic pillars of success that my parents’ generation so prized such as home ownership or travelling the world or having children of my own. And when you accept that circumstances beyond your control have placed so much forever beyond your reach you often find yourself asking “Well what is there? What is even the point of it all?”.
The answer, I have realized, is to find contentment in the joys of life that are available to you. I’ve written before that one tremendous source of comfort I find comes from my faith. I recognize however that religion isn’t for everyone. More broadly, I have come to seeand embrace the simple pleasures of day to day life. The comforting presence of friends. The intellectual stimulation of a good book. The exhilarating challenge of a vigorous conversation. A slice of homemade bread slathered with butter when I am hungry. A glass of cold water on a hot day when I am thirsty. The endless succession of unique, tiny moments of happiness and joy that can be found every day if we only open our eyes enough to look for them.
Admittedly, that is not always possible to do. I have my dark days, as do we all, and sometimes it seems nothing can dispel the doom and gloom of wider and larger events that hover over us unceasingly without mercy or respite. Despite my best efforts there are times when I curse the darkness rather than focus on the glow of the candle. Yet I still try, when things seem blackest, to find the happiness that comes from small victories and the joy that comes from simple pleasures. It can be a difficult comfort to find at times, but also I truer and purer one I do believe than the souless opulence and empty materialism that was the definition of happiness to the generation that came before. At times, as hard as it may be, I do think we are the better off for being able to recognize it.