The Key to Simple Living: Appreciating the Present

By , January 7, 2010

Our Christmas season ended last night at midnight. We have now returned to the every day. This in itself seems reason for celebration.

I’ve been struggling with terminology that expresses my current outlook on life. I like the phrase “celebrating the ordinary,” but the phrase has a more common use than personal meaning. The wider use of the phrase refers to the recent American tendency to elevate the mundane to special status, such as graduation ceremonies for advancing from one grade to another in elementary school. I oppose this sort of thing. When I talk about celebrating the ordinary, I’m talking about enjoying the small features that make up a life, and enrich it—if we’re paying attention.

Last weekend I heard a phrase on the radio that may express this better: “appreciating the present.”

So, it’s with an appreciation for the present that I transition from the Sacred to the Profane, from the Christmas Season to the every day. I’m enjoying coffee from my chunky white “every day” mug. I’m a bit more relaxed now that I’m not feeling the need to make the most out of the season. It’s a rather refreshing limbo, for the moment. I welcome the return to non-season-specific music on the stereo. I’m looking forward to starting a new book this afternoon, after I get out and cut some firewood. In the moments before I choose that next book, I’m enjoying the unlimited possibilities of what it might be.

These are small pleasures, hallmarks of a simple life. They aren’t enough for most people—if they were, what a different world this would be. For me, the ability to appreciate what’s going on at the moment seems like heaven on earth. Sure, I worry about the future; sure I strive to improve my lot. But in doing so, if I can maintain awareness of the good that’s all around me, no matter how mundane, no matter how humble, I’ll be a happier man, and perhaps a better one.

You will find a version of the essay above, as well as writing on similar and related topics in Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm by Mark A. Zeiger, available in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. The published version will likely be expanded, clarified, or updated from what you have just read.

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