My book club is reading Rules of Civility by Amor Towles this month and I am enjoying it immensely. To paraphrase the description on the cover, it is the story of a chance encounter in 1937 and the startling consequences that propel the heroine on a yearlong journey toward the upper echelons of New York society.
Since my diagnosis of multiple myeloma, I find that more often now I find thoughts and ideas that strike a chord with me in the books that I am reading and I know my emotions are closer to the surface causing me to be moved more easily by philosophical thought. Yesterday, I read such a passage in this book that made me stop and read it again and then write the page number on the back of my bookmark knowing that I would want to return to it. Let me share it with you:
My father was never much one for whining. In the nineteen years I knew him, he hardly spoke of his turn in the Russian army, or of making ends meet with my mother, or the day that she walked out on us. He certainly didn’t complain about his health as it failed.
But one night near the end, as I was sitting at his bedside trying to entertain him with an anecdote about some nincompoop with whom I worked, out of the blue he shared a reflection which seemed such a non sequitur that I attributed it to delirium. Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke in the morning he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee. Only decades later would I realize that he had been giving me a piece of advice…….When a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane…..she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger……one must be prepared to fight for one’s simple pleasures…..
If we lose the joy of simple pleasures, we risk losing that which enriches our day to day lives and gives us hope. I am someone who loves to get up in the morning and read the newspapers and drink freshly ground coffee. If the day ever comes when I have lost interest in such small pleasures, I will fear that I am losing resolve and, more importantly, hope. I believe that continuing to look forward to something as ordinary as a hot cup of coffee each morning could be a metaphor for “making it through” and having hope for the future.