January 20 – Being Easily Pleased – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
One key to knowing joy is being easily pleased.
So many of us have been trained to think that being particular about what we want is indicative of good taste and that not being satisfied unless our preferences are met is a sign of worldliness and sophistication. I remember being at a party where a woman wouldn’t accept her drink unless it was made with a certain brand of vermouth. She was, in fact, indignant about it. Or going to dinner with a colleague who had to have his steak prepared in a complex and special way, as if this particular need to be different was his special public signature. Or watching very intelligent men and women inscribe their circle of loneliness with criteria for companionship that no one could meet. I used to maintain such a standard of excellence around the sort of art I found acceptable.
Often, this kind of discernment is seen as having high standards, when in actuality it is only a means of isolating ourselves from being touched by life, while rationalizing that we are more special than those who can’t meet our very demanding standards.
The devastating truth is that excellence can’t hold you in the night, and, as I learned when ill, being demanding or sophisticated, won’t help you survive. A person dying of thirst doesn’t ask if the water has chlorine or if it was gathered in the foothills of France.
Yet, to be accepting of the life that comes our way does not mean denying its difficulties and disappointments. Rather, it means that joy can be found even in hardship, not by demanding that we be treated as special at every turn, but through accepting the demand of the sacred that we treat everything that comes our way as special.
Still, we are taught to develop preferences as signs of importance and position. In fact, those who have on preferences, those we are accepting of whatever is placed before them, are often seen as simpletons or bumpkins. However, there is a profound innocence in the fact that sages and children alike are easily pleased with what each day gifts them.
The further I wake into this life, the more I realize that God is everywhere and the extraordinary is waiting quietly beneath the skin of all that is ordinary. Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond, and music is in both the flowing violin and the water dripping from the drainage pipe. Yes, God is under the porch as well as on top of the mountains, and joy is in both the front row and the bleachers, if we are willing to be where we are.