On Realizing Ordinary Happiness

Here’s an excerpt from a longer piece on this topic that appeared in the Floyd Press last week…

… To celebrate the small and close at hand, to intentionally seek and find pleasure in the unadorned, quiet moments of our own present places and times is a legitimate and worthy goal for all of us. Unfortunately this is an ability we may have lost to the degree to which we have “prospered” in the eyes of the world. The bar for happiness has been raised impossibly high, artificially sweetened and wrapped up in tinsel. It has been an unreachable illusion for most of us and its pursuit has left us in debt.

Tomorrow’s unpredictable paycheck and retirement’s fractured nest eggs have largely disabused us of our prior expectations of “living well” measured by what we might someday be able to afford. And it’s clear that those among us who have had the most–media and sports celebrities, financial tycoons and people in high office–should not necessarily be our teachers or models in this matter.

Meanwhile, ordinary happiness lives on. It has been buried for decades under the smothering sediments of limitless want and entitlement, of greed and flagrant materialism. But if we dig a bit, we’ll find it perfectly preserved and capable of new life above ground, to be nurtured and to thrive in our and our children’s future. The best things in life aren’t free, really–there is a cost and getting them takes effort–but they cannot be bought.

The pendulum swings: today we ask for what is real, what is good for the planet and the soil and seas for the long term; give us what comes from within our grasp–the locally created and grown, made and performed. Show us the Good of the goods we already have for the blessings they are and have always been during our busy rush to amass fantasy fortunes of one kind or another…

You can read the full piece here.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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