Sunday, February 24, 2008

Joie de Vivre (My Sacred Life, Sunday)

Slowing down. It's a great way to allow more of what you are within to reach your awareness. One important fact that one is taught in driver's education classes is that, the faster you are going, the less peripheral area you can cover with your eyes. There simply is too much visual information arriving in your brain to process it all. This is a really bad situation for a driver, because it means you may not see that small child who is still five steps from the road, but running directly toward it, until it is too late.

Were you going at a lower rate of speed, you would have been able to see further off the road, seeing the child in time to either stop or take action to miss the kid as he runs into the street. And, of course, everything would have been taking place more slowly because you are approaching the event more slowly.

The very same theory applies to all of what we do, not just driving. The danger in always hurrying through much of what we do is not the possibility of a catastrophic accident. No, most of the time, our moving too quickly simply results in missing our lives.

The concept of joie de vivre--literally, "joy of living"--is something I spend time focusing on these days. Now, Falstaff, as depicted in this painting by Eduard von Gr├╝tzner, is probably not a great model for anyone except for this one shining characteristic. His version of joie de vivre was a bit too much toward joie de tankard, but he is the quintessential image of one who has not a care in the world. He is enjoying right where he is, right this moment. He could not claim to hold to any virtue one could name, yet he moved through the life Shakespeare created for him with so much enjoyment that, even as he proved over and over to be both coward and lying buffoon, we still love him for his love of life.

Falstaff was often in trouble thanks to his various antics, but you would never know it if you were standing next to him as he glugged his ale. I don't propose that we forsake our responsibilities and all take up residence in the nearest pub, but the attitude is a useful one.

For every minute we spend worrying about something that already took place and we cannot change, or something which has yet to happen but we cannot control, we miss one minute of the most beautiful, sacred, precious gift: our own lives, our own experience. So many of us speed through the supposedly mundane parts to get to the exciting parts. Then, when the exciting parts prove to disappoint, we have not only missed the fragile Now we flew past on the way to our anticipated excitement, we have brought about the disillusionment when Now doesn't meet up with ego's imagined thrilling scene.

My intent is to be in my life right now. I'm willing to be present in a time which, at first, seems to be lacking. Those moments only reveal their magic if you look past the surface, past how mundane they seem, and become a member of the scene, an active participant as a nose smelling the flower's marvelously enticing scent or the hand wielding the pooper scooper to clean up after the dogs in the back yard. The perfume is different, but the participation is exactly the same.


Olivia said...

Yet another beautiful post, Rick. This weekend I got in touch with my own, self-designed "aloha" religion, which has one sin---RUSHING! Rushing blocks so much of life, both externally and internally and fuels anxiety and kills joie de vivre. In the spirit of slow, O

Rick Hamrick said...

Yes, Olivia, I am about 20 minutes from leaving work, and journeying home for some old-time religion. After all, the Hawaiians have been at "aloha" for thousands of years, so that's "old-time" enough for me.

Thanks for your sweet comments, O. It's always a pleasure to see that gorilla with the lovely lei in my comments area!

Sphincter said...

Thanks. This is something I've been working on lately. Some days I have better luck with it than others. This was a good reminder. (BTW, I've been known to have the joie de tankard myself from time to time. I'm sure that you are shocked to hear it.)

Angela said...

Yeah, I love that guy. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Rick. I am a traveling here via 37 Days and boy am I glad I stopped to smell the roses! Thanks for the beautiful reminder. I'll return for sure!

Rick Hamrick said...

flashfree--thanks for visiting, and thanks for letting me know you stopped by!

You're always welcome here.