Saturday, December 11, 2004

This Mornings Muse

I had an interesting morning which started out considering the following piece.
In an effort to make the most out of life, and pass along any tidbits that I think will enhance the lives of those I love, I delved into the feelings that this piece triggered in me. It comes from a book called “The Simple Life” by Charles Wagner.
It was written around the turn of the century, surprise, surprise, and it is antiquated in many ways but this paragraph spoke to me as he recounted the joy in the simple festivals that country folk enjoy. He contrasts that with the commercial.

“Compare one of those out-door festivals of the good old style with one of the village festivals, so-called modernized. On the one hand, in the respected frame of secular customs solid countrymen sang their songs of the country, danced the country dances, in their peasant’s attire, drank their native drinks, and seemed to completely enjoy themselves. They amused themselves like the blacksmith at his forge, as the cascade falls, as the colts bound in the meadow. It is contagious and wins your heart. In spite of oneself one says; “Bravo! Children; that is just right.” We would ask to be of the party.
On the other hand, I see villagers disguised in “citizens” ; peasants rendered ugly by the dressmakers, and as a principle ornament of the festival a gathering of degenerates, who bawl concert-hall songs; and, sometimes, holding the place of honor, a few strolling actors of the tenth class come for the occasions, to smooth off the rougher points of these rurals, and to permit them to taste of refined pleasures. For drinks, liquors based on alcohol made from potatoes or absinthe. There is no originality or picturesqueness in all of it.
Of gay abandon, perhaps, and vulgarity, but not the abandonment which brings innocent pleasure.”

Now my dilemma is that I am an equal mix of the two styles he comments on.
I enjoy those that bawl out concert-hall songs, and the strolling actors intrigue me. That being said, the old style festival brought to mind certain images to me that satisfy something deep in my soul. I would liken his ‘old style’ festivals to the local Farmers Market. There is an effort to make them in keeping with those of old. Music is folk or country with all acoustical instruments or the like. No knick-knacks, or merchandise not in keeping with the spirit of the season and theme.
I very much like the environment, it has a true simplicity with ruddy faced farm children helping their parents sell their produce, lots of denim and flannel, strong weather worn hands abound.
That thought led me to other like experiences and I drifted off to the ‘October Fest’ in Mt Angel. This is a German affair with authentic dances, attire and food.
Again it is a simple production with the crescendo being the dance around the May Pole. Having German blood in me, I thought I felt a twinge of kinship rise in me from time to time as I watched little blonde haired, blue-eyed girls with braided hair skip and smile.
While visiting Mt. Angel we ventured up to a Catholic Church that had all day long entertainment inside. We walked in the breath taking sanctuary, past the Holy Water and into the warm rich light that the towering stained glass windows provided. There was a lone woman singing with a rich clarion voice. She put a spell on me as the beauty of her simple voice rang out songs like Danny Boy and other Irish songs of culture and faith.
From there my memory took me to the ‘Garlic Festival’ another harvest time gathering. This was more of a mix of old and new but still had the flavor of the previous mentioned gatherings.
How could I forget the pumpkin patch, with hot cocoa brewing, hayrides and petting zoos of rabbits, roosters and goats. Which reminds me of the State fair and the blue ribbon quilting, giant vegetables and horse competitions. Not to mention the barn smells that at once offend and draw me.
Then I began to remember the experience of Thailand. These feelings were completely fleshed out in the genuine old culture that dominates where I visited.
It was like walking into the past and I felt right at home. The most basic needs met, to me, were filled with charm and character. From the faces, village homes to the markets, I was enraptured with each site.

So with all these thoughts filling my head I decided to look for some pithy statements that might best describe my feelings. I looked up a chapter on ' The simple life' and began to read.
I found most of the thoughts brought out the dilemma of finding purpose in life and I turned a corner as I read this first quote—

“ We must not look for a golden life in an iron age.” John ray.
That kind of popped my bubble but it fits my reality and so on I went in search of more.
“ We live merely on the crust or rind of things.” J.A. Froude
That fits as well; obviously I can’t live at the Farmers market but better to enjoy the crust than nothing at all.

“ Ones real life is so often the life one does not lead.” O. Wilde.
That resonates as well; my day-to-day life is spent in an office or warehouse far from the farm or country. But my heart is at least in part, in the country.

A thought like it – “Real life is, to most men, a long second best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible.” B. Russell.
I couldn’t put my thoughts more succinctly. I’m not proud or thrilled to admit it but my dreams have little to do with my work and my home is not nestled where I would choose. But, we do what we can. Maybe that thought is spoken somewhere?
How about – “ We live, not as we wish, but as we can.” Menander
Yep, that about says it. We go where the money is to raise a family and make compromises for the whole, not just ourselves. Don’t we?
After all—“ There is one reason we cannot complain of life; it keeps no one against his will.” Seneca
True, dreams or not I’m not checking out.

Now I read a quote with some purpose to it, which I need about now.
“ Life is a mission. Every other definition of life is false, and leads all who accept it astray. Religion, science, philosophy, though still at variance upon many points,
all agree in this, that every existence is an aim.” Mazzini

So what was my aim again? I get kind of lost in all this but there are a few things I can say with certainty, or someone else can say it for me….
“ The poorest way to face life is with a sneer.” T. Roosevelt.
Sometimes I find myself doing this, with all I have to be thankful for? Still, it happens.

“ Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.” O. Henry
I got a chuckle out of that and there are seasons of my life where it was so true.

Then I read this quote and it really spoke to me;
“ Life consists in what man is thinking of all day.” Emerson
I like that. Most of what we experience in life is in our mind, or in my case my mouth, and it sparked a thought that there are many things I could do with my mind while at work. I could learn a new language. I wanted to learn Thai so I could talk with Nic, or I could learn Spanish with our Hispanic population growing.
I could memorize scripture. Anyway, I spend most of my mental energy during the day on trifles. What a waste.

Well, that was then end of my morning search on the subject but I wanted to read a little in the Bible so I turned to John and my eyes fell on this verse—
“I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
“The light of life” that just beamed out at me. That’s what I want, that light. Festivals are fun, travel is fine, smiles or sniffles are a part of life, but let me have the Light of Life.

1 comment:

mat said...

Ok Dad, it looks like your back on caffeine? ;)

I especially like the “We live, not as we wish, but as we can” line. I think this sums up much of how we let go of our ideals for the practical. A friend of mine from China told me that 'most Chinese youth spend it trying to bend the system until they either leave the country, or give up and live for the party. This usually happens at about 30 years old.' I'm 29, so I wonder where I'm at in my fight against the party?