Sometimes life is more simple than we think!
There is a marvelous sequence in one of C. S. Lewis’s books. An old tramp and a younger man named Mark are held captive in a situation fraught with danger. Mark points out that they are in considerable danger. The tramp offers his solution.
“Ah,” said the man approvingly, “I got a plan.”
“What is it?”
“Ah,” said the man, winking at Mark with infinite knowingness and rubbing his belly.
“Go on. What is it?” said Mark.
“How’d it be,” said the man. . . . “How’d it be if you and I made ourselves a nice bit of toasted cheese?”[i]
The situation is not one that either the tramp or Mark could do anything about. Mark is a well-educated young man concerned with the potential danger. The tramp, a simple man, was more concerned with the immediate present and making the best of a difficult situation.
I would not counsel passivity in the face of things that we can do something about, and our Christian faith is not a faith of passivity; nor is it a faith that ignores the reality of the present. On the other hand the tramp has a point. His main thing is to enjoy the present and make of it what he can.
While we can learn from the past if we will, there is no point in trying to relive the past; that never works. The future is not something within our grasp. What the tramp does, is live in the present. There are times when planning to make a toasted cheese sandwich is just the right thing.
There is a Zen story about a man who is being chased by tiger and leaps over the edge of a cliff to escape. As he falls he grasps the branch of a tree and hangs dangling over a precipice. Then he spies a strawberry growing out of the craggy side of the cliff. “My, how sweet that strawberry tasted.”
If we try to live in the griefs of the past or live in fear of the future, we will miss the simple joys of the present. The philosopher Pascal would remind us that we have pain in the present. And so? Should that prevent us from accepting those moments of love, of joy, of beauty that flow to us in the present moment; the purr of a cat, the happy wagging friendship of the family dog, the love of a child, or a parent, or a friend, the beauty of a sunset, the wonder of a balmy day in the middle of winter or the wonder of cold crisp winter day.
St. Paul counsels us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”[ii] Sometimes a toasted cheese sandwich is really just the right thing.