Friday, 30 November 2012

What a Wonderful World

All day I have been humming that song and singing the few snatches that I remember.

It has been sunny and crisply cold today.  The sky has had much more than "enough blue to make a sailor a pair of britches" (as my mother used to say), after days of darkness and rain.  In the shops people have been taking their time and pondering the bright stacks of Christmas goods, knowing that there is plenty of time still to prepare for Christmas.  I was pleased that we did not have premature carols or Christmas songs to accompany us along the aisles, plenty of time for that too.  In the butchers we had time for a joke and in the charity shop I handed over my parcel gratefully and then bought a pretty crystal glass.

This evening the young teenagers who gather at the bus stop have gone home early because it is so cold. Although I enjoy their skittishness as they tease and chase each other, laughing and shrieking, I also enjoy the quiet.  The moon is bright in a clear sky.  Hopefully it will be another clear cold day tomorrow, giving us an opportunity to look around us and to enjoy the world and its people.

On the radio this morning I heard a politician speaking about the drains on the NHS and saying that people should be more stoical.  Yes I agree.  We should be prepared to face what life brings us with courage, dignity and acceptance.  That philosophy, sound as it is, is not an excuse for a national health service to fail in its duty to care for all of the people all of the time.  If the NHS needs more money, as of course it does, then careful thought should be given to the allocation of all our national resources and to prioritising the spending.  While vast amounts of money are being spent on remedying the effects of unsuitable contracts awarded to unproven and inefficient firms and on long investigations into bad practice, corruption and cover-ups, it ill behoves politicians to criticise the sick and depressed.

Another philosophy that might help those who ill and upset and depressed and help them to get better is that of Epicurus. According to Anthony Kenny in "Ancient Philosophy", which is the first volume in "A New History Of Western Philosophy":

"The aim of Epicurus' philosophy is to make happiness possible by removing the fear of death, which is the greatest obstacle to tranquillity.  Men struggle for wealth and power so as to postpone death; they throw themselves into frenzied activity so that they can forget its inevitability."

I take this to mean that if we stop allowing the fear of death to cast a shadow over our days then we can enjoy what each day brings. In accepting the inevitable future we can appreciate the present in tranquillity.  I consider that this holds true for all fears of what the future might bring. If we stop the frenzied struggle to avoid what we fear, or to try to bring about what we feel life should be like, then we can appreciate life as it is.  In this way we can savour what life offers, rather than wishing for something more, something better, something different.  

Kenny tells us that for Epicurus, pleasure is the beginning and end of a happy life.  Not the pleasures of hedonism or the satisfaction of desires, but the quiet pleasures of friendship and a simple meal:

"His life and that of his followers was far from luxurious: a good piece of cheese, he said, was as good as a feast."

If your parents like mine said, "enough is as good as a feast", I doubt that they were conscious of staying close to the philosophy of Epicurus.  Mine also said, "Look up and look around you, smile at people, don't sulk and look down at the ground."  Sulking, wanting more, busying ourselves buying more and more material goods and generally being dissatisfied by the life we have is a recipe for unhappiness and ultimately ill health.

Whether it rains or shines tomorrow it is a wonderful world.  There is a cornucopia of goods in the shops but we do not need them all.  In the days leading up to Christmas try to enjoy the pleasure of finding food and gifts for the people you love and the people whose friendship you value.  It is not a race or a competition so take your time and enjoy the choosing.  Whether you buy cheese or china, one good piece is as good as a feast and when it chosen with care and love it is priceless.  

Before I sat down to write this I listened to Louis Armstrong singing "What A Wonderful World" on U tube.  It brought tears to my eyes.  Why not listen too and see how you feel?


  1. I totally agree that having an acceptance & pleasure in the little things in life as well as 'our lot' can lead to contentment & an inner peace. However that does not mean that it is wrong to strive for more happiness, does it?

    It may be that there are lots in this world that is wonderful but there is also lots that is sad & depressing. Isn't it ok to feel those things too, June? Isn't feeling both sides having a balanced view? If we settle for what we have then perhaps we will be missing out on something better. Personally I want more happiness in my life & I believe I have to make that happen by putting more things in place that can bring me happiness.
    That surely can't be wrong, can it? I don't have the answers, just posing the question. X

  2. Hannah,
    Of course you are right. It would be foolish to deny that we sometimes feel sad and depressed. Indeed it was the balanced view that I was aiming for. What I was hoping to convey was that being able to feel appreciative of all that is good in the world even when there is sadness, helps us to lift ourselves out of depression. As to acceptance, if we suffer loss, or illness or disappointment it does us no good either to rail against fortune or to sink into hopelessness. Once we accept what has happened we can look outward again. We can put our energies towards making any improvements that we can, instead of dwelling on what cannot be changed.
    You sound like someone who aims for the balanced view and sets about making improvements where they are needed; and I applaud that. Thank you for your comment and
    very best wishes for your future happiness.