An alleged Chinese proverb says, “May you live in interesting times.” I can certainly appreciate why this purported curse keeps surfacing…the more eventful our world gets, the more I wish I were living in some quiet backwater of history where nothing ever happens.
But of course I’m not. And while it behooves me to have an opinion on current events, whether it’s Syria (Should we bomb them?) or Obamacare (Should we ban it?), the BIG issues are not ultimately in my control.
But my attitude towards daily life IS in my control.
We had a quote on our refrigerator for years. It’s attributed to Charles Swindoll, a prolific writer and speaker, a pastor and seminary president. The quote is all over the internet, but since I can’t find an exact source for it, I’m considering it suspect. The one phrase which stuck with me, however, is one you may have heard before:
“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
“There is no other way in which one’s life will be so surely, so quickly transfigured, as in the faithful, happy, cheerful doing of every-day tasks. We need to remember that this world is not so much a place for doing things as for making character. Right in the midst of what some people call drudgery is the very best place to get the transformed, transfigured life. The doing of common tasks patiently, promptly, faithfully, cheerfully,makes the character beautiful and bright. But we must take heed always that we do our tasks, whatever they are, with love in our hearts. Doing any kind of work unwillingly, with complaint and murmuring, hurts the life.”
James Russell Miller (1840 – 1912)
It strikes me that no matter how ‘interesting’ one’s times become, there will always be tedious tasks to be done. Short of the apocalypse, clothes and dishes will still need to be washed, food will need to be cooked, some semblance of housecleaning will be expected. Bills will need to be paid, and taxes filed. The dog will require food and exercise, the car will need maintenance.
For many of us–OK, for me–it’s alarmingly easy to convince myself that the more interesting tasks at hand are the more important ones. I am then free to resent and/or ignore the mundane duties, …although they never magically go away.
Perhaps if our Congress could do the prosaic work of passing a Budget, instead of passing the buck, our times would be less ‘interesting.’ (Perhaps if we elected men of character, this would not be an issue.)
But despite these weighty issues, there is one inescapable fact in my life right now.
I have to go wash the dishes.