While struggling against discontentment with the everydayness of life, it can be tempting to seek escape from the mundane. But, perhaps the way of joy is to come closer to the common– to become more attentive to the very things that seem endless. Perhaps faith in the God who chooses bread, wine, and water as his sacraments means a faith that insists upon meaning in the most common things. Sixteenth century Anglican clergyman and poet Thomas Traherne believed this:
“I was guided by an implicit faith in God’s goodness: and therefore led to the study of the most obvious and common things. For thus I thought within myself: God being, as we generally believe, infinite in goodness, it is most consonant and agreeable with His nature, that the best things should be most common. For nothing is more natural to infinite goodness, than to make the best things most frequent; and only things worthless scarce. Then I began to enquire what things were most common: Air, Light, Heaven and Earth, Water, the Sun, Trees, Men and Women, Cities, Temples, &c. These I found common and obvious to all: Rubies, Pearls, Diamonds, Gold and Silver; these I found scarce, and to the most denied. Then began I to consider and compare the value of them which I measured by their serviceableness, and by the excellencies which would be found in them, should they be taken away. And in conclusion, I saw clearly, that there was a real valuableness in all the common things; in the scarce, a feigned.”
I am finding this quotation to be deeply encouraging, inspiring attentiveness to the “obvious and common things” of my life as I strive to live with joy and contentment.
(I learned of this quotation through volume 127 of the Mars Hill Audio Journals, when Ken Myers interviews Calvin Stapert on the music of Joseph Haydn. It is from Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations, which C.S. Lewis called “almost the most beautiful book in English… from which I could go on quoting forever.”)