“Our life is not a problem to be solved; it is a gift to be opened.”
I had time to sit and read Wayne Muller’s chapters about Simplicity and Gratefulness on Thursday morning, and it seems I was in the proper frame of mind to receive the message. I feel like I could write for days, and then some, about much of it.
And almost none of it is new to me. A dear old friend, the late Lou O’Malley, once told us the secret to having a happy life is living with what you have, and here is Muller quoting Lao Tzu:
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
The whole world belongs to you.
Muller describes the desk of writer Frank Waters, a plain pine table with papers, pencils, and an old Olivetti portable typewriter, which moves me to write:
Always have a pen and paper. The electronics need to be charged, the desktop takes time to boot up. They all need to connect to Wi-Fi. The pen is always ready.
The essence of Muller’s chapter about gratitude is summed up in that sentence, “Our life is not a problem to be solved; it is a gift to be opened.” We spend so much time focused on what we lack — how life will be better if we can only fill that empty space — that we lose sight of the fullness everywhere else.
I have written that I work in a room surrounded by books — I once searched in vain online for the context of a Ray Bradbury quote, only to find it in a book full of essays sitting three feet above where I sat. And now, opening a book at random from a pile I nabbed at an estate sale because its title reminded me of a podcast I value, I find my heart opened to concepts I’ve known “headwise” for a long time.
Dorothy journeyed to Oz only to discover what she needed back at home. I keep looking for stuff only to find it was already here.
Instead of approaching life as a series of problems to solve, we need to look at our pile of gifts and start to unwrap them. Suddenly all that junk we were struggling with turns into the best present ever.