“Rightness of mind is only to be at home in the place and the life you were given.” – Wendell Berry, A Small Porch
“I sit there thinking about how much courage it takes to live an ordinary life.” –
Column McCann, Let The Great World Spin
Of all I’ve read so far this year, and really as far back as I can remember, these two quotes have struck me deepest. It’s both exciting and somewhat unnerving to get cut by words when you’re just going about your way. These statements are markers of where we’ve been over the past couple years and the destination we are still heading toward.
Meg and I have been on this journey for quite some time now of attempting to reevaluate what truly matters, to us and in this world. We’ve intentionally slowed down, minimizing extra commitments and the perpetual spreading thin of life that I at least was so prone to doing. Things as small as rearranging rooms in our home to be purposefully more cozy and to encourage rest, pairing down on clothing in our wardrobes so the overaccumulation of the years gets removed and we just have what we need and enjoy, and less social media usage to free up our brains to think of and care about more important things than how we look to other people (this has done it for me more than anything else) have really set our hearts and minds in the here and now better than we could have expected.
Having a kid, Meg staying home with him, me changing to a more traditional office job, and living off of one income has definitely had its effects on this journey, too. This doesn’t mean it’s been easy by any stretch of imagination, but it has done for us what we are realizing we’ve desired deep down – forcing us to be present and mindful in the life and the place we are given right now, which is a great blessing.
For the longest time, I thought courage was reserved for taking the next big thing, tackling huge endeavors, and taking a constant David vs. Goliath approach to life. In reading Let The Great World Spin and through the journey we’ve been on, I’m convinced the essence of courage is much more grounded, much more simple than that. The courage to live an ordinary life is to know the gracious limits God has set on your life, and to live well and fully within those. It’s not courageous for a fish to compare itself to a monkey and attempt to climb a tree – it’s foolishness. Column McCann, thank you for perspective.
I never really gave much thought to whether I’m in my right mind or not. Don’t we always think we are? But having begun this pace-altering way of life, whether or not I’m crazy has come up once or twice. Wendell Berry has been a great teacher in this. I’ve found that becoming content with this season, the present, has brought much more peace and even hope to my life than the constant striving or wishing for more or different or better. We have enough. This exact life right now is rich with enough. I may seem crazy for believing that, but it’s a better crazy than trying to be everything to everyone. Rightness of mind is a worthy aim, and I’m reaching for it by settling into hopeful contentedness. I feel that Wendell and I will be partners along the way for some time to come.
All this is to say that we have been intentional in our sabbatical-like reclusivity, but not completely shut off or hidden. The focus is on different things; growing deeper and not just wider, less comparison and more celebrating, caring and loving for the long haul, attempting to be more grounded in the place and the life I’ve been given, and being more than doing. Life may look very different for us at any moment, but God is good and with us, and we can trust him. Your life may look very different than ours, your pace and style may counter ours entirely, but I hope you are at home in the place and the life you’ve been given, and can find courage.