Thursday, 8 July 2010

Pondering life's little pleasures

When I was studying at Cambridge in the mid-90s I became very interested in language and linguistics. I recently came across an interview with Noam Chomsky.

Among the many topics discussed therein I was taken by his views on modern themes:

"What does Chomsky make of stories about undergraduates at British universities having to be taught grammar in their freshman years? To a linguist, one whose own literary style favours phrases such as ‘generative transformational grammar’, that must seem an abomination.‘Yes, there is that. It is probably down to the texting culture. The use of textonyms and so on. But it is also to do with the way young people read on screen. The digital age cuts back reading and, as a consequence, young people are losing the ability to think seriously. They get distracted more easily, breaking off to check an email. Speed-reading is exactly the wrong thing to do. You have to think about what you are reading.’ He gives me his sideways look. ‘You have to ponder.’ "

To ponder a phrase, a book, an email, an article is surely a pleasure.

I watch the Off-Spring as they ponder things. No haste, no stress; pure unbridled self-indulgence.

Most of you know all too well by now that pondering is one of my preferred pass-times.

Pondering the things I like to ponder amounts to musing over life's little pleasures. It is not the huge and daunting mysteries of life that one "ponders". Rather, a turn of phrase, a look, a suggestion, the plot and characters of a new and wonderful book. In many cases, the subconscious mind reflects and ponders constantly. Our attention drawn again and again to a film, a place, a person, an idea.

So this post is about the things that give me pause; pause not occasioned by confusion or provocation or worry or logic. Rather - lingering for the joy of it; to revel in a delightful hiatus.

So I give you:

Springgirl's Non-definitive List of Life's Little Pleasures - pause and ponder and tell me yours.

The gurgle of a happy baby
The thud of the post through the door
The crunch of a fresh baguette
The first sip of crisp, cold, white wine
The key in the door
The glimpse of a loved one in a crowd
Climbing between cool, fresh sheets
The first barefoot moment of the Spring
The squelch of wellington boots in sucking Autumn mud
The sound of rain in the night
The smell of rain at the end of a hot, steamy day
The aroma of coffee as a new tin is opened
A soprano's dulcet tones drifting across the cloisters on a summer night
Little cool arms wrapped around one's neck
The wonder of a child who discovers he can do something for the first time
Driving in the country with all the windows down
The taste of bitter sweet dark chocolate on the tip of one's tongue
The first cup of tea of the day brought to one in bed
The sound of wind rustling leaves
Floating in deep clear water
The smell of a new book (even better if one wrote it)
The view from on high
Sea water splashing one's legs
Picking over old family photos
The crinkle of tissue paper
A seat in business class on a long-haul flight
The smell of new leather/new cars/new carpet/lavender
The hug of someone dear
Climbing into bed and resuming a good book
getting home
The crack of teeth into a perfect meringue
The scent of lavender on one's fingers after rubbing them
Long afternoon shadows at the beach
Bright, clear Autumn skies
Muscle aches after an amazing workout
Establishing rapport
An unexpected compliment
Drifting to sleep in fresh air
The delight of knowing the baby can sleep through the night
All clear on a biopsy
A mother's voice on the phone
The sheer pleasure of knowing one is loved 
The peace and majesty of a huge, wide landscape
Paint on canvas
Crisp, chilly days inside a new, warm coat
The joy of an accomplishment

I had better stop. This is but the tip of the iceberg...

Interestingly, I tried to draft a list of life's little horrors or displeasures. I could not come up with too many. Walking in dog mess was there. Stuck inside a hot, crowded airless train carriage also sprang to mind. Death of a loved one. Pain. Ill-health. Debilitating uncertainty.

Not to sound too Pollyanna-ish, but it is hard to think of the negatives after pondering the positives.

Might be time for me to get out a bit more...

To that end, today I offered to chair the Off-Springs' school PTA next year. I would like to find a co-chair if any of you are available.

I dare say that the part of me that longs for a challenge, some attention, centre-stage and a forum for my ideas is crying out to be heard right now. I could have just finished the novel that is waiting for my attention on my laptop -in draft looking for an ending. Or I could renew my efforts to find a nice suitable job. 

But no, for a range of reasons the PTA chair seems to be calling me. Will I delight in asking people for donations, help and time? Will I navigate the troubled straights dividing culture and mindset among disparate parents? Will I listen? Will I still have time to go to the gym? 

I know my dear mother would say - "Steer clear of that! You are not good at politics and you will just get impatient with all those women talking over each other. Charity begins at home." 

I think that sometimes one just has to see for oneself. If nothing else, I hope to find some more little pleasures to savour in the new experiences as they unfold.

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