The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in
your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand,
the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the
stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that
daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.-Robert Louis Stevenson
We can’t touch the stars, even though there is a connection between you and the stars that you see at night. The light that reaches your eyes has been traveling for many, many years, and since you can see the stars, you know that there is a beam of light that extends all the way from your eyes back to the star (if it hasn’t ceased to exist in the meantime).
But keep in mind that in the time that it has taken the light to reach us, the sky as we see it probably has ceased to exist. So while we may want to keep that star as our own, there’s a good chance that it’s no longer there. The night sky that we see probably is much different than the night sky that exists now–the one that people on our planet will see hundreds or thousands of years from now.
So if we grasp at the stars, we’ll come up empty. If we grasp for the hand of a friend, guess what? The friend’s right here. If we put our full effort into the work that we do, the work will become more fulfilling, and we’ll get better at it. And if we do so and it doesn’t become more fulfilling, that should be a pretty clear sign that we need to find new work.
Our daily duties can be awesome reminders of how alive we are, just how simple life can be, and just how fulfilling life can be when it is simple. One of my favorite things in the world is to curl up with a cup of coffee, and English muffin, and a good book, and if I had to choose, I’d pick that over an expensive show or concert any day. I often have more fun washing my car than I would do almost anything else–there’s something about the flowing water and watching something become clean that’s very fulfilling.
I don’t think Robert’s telling us not to set our ambitions high, or to be satisfied with mediocrity in the things that we do. But he is telling us not to ignore those beautiful things of our daily life that, if we do pay attention to them and appreciate them, can greatly enrich us as human beings.
Questions to ponder:
1. What parts of “life’s plain, common work” are the
most enjoyable for you? The least enjoyable?
2. Why do we seem to have a tendency to
undervalue our daily tasks and our daily bread?
3. Why do advertisers spend so much time and money
trying to make us dissatisfied with what we have
in order to make us desire that which we don’t have?
For further thought:
When one cannot be sure that there are many days left, every single day becomes as important as a year, and one does not waste an hour in wishing that the hours were long, but simply fills it, like a smaller cup, as high as it will go without spilling over.-Natalie Kusz
Credit: Living Life Fully