Small joys and enduring pleasures

I have a venerable old Honda Ballade which looks like, and is, a mom car.

It is a staid green, and all the seat belts work, and it has ferried many a child across the city, with bags and sports equipment stowed in its sensibly big boot.

But it has a secret: in that same boot, there is the biggest, badass-est sound system you have ever seen. My sedate-looking Honda can outplay any minibus taxi, any day.

The sound system was installed by my stepson Ryan, just because. And it is one of the joys of my life. It has never failed to impress my son’s friends, and more importantly, it allows me to listen to Bruce Springsteen, played very very loudly. As is only proper.

I was thinking about my car and the secret it holds in its boot because a recent morning meditation suggested it might be a good idea to appreciate the small things in life.

And I have been doing that – the first sip of coffee in the morning, the noisy congregations of sparrows in our tree at sunset, the soft fur on my dog’s ears. That sound system.

Long-haul sustenance

Over and above those small daily delights though, I got to thinking about the things that sustain me over the long haul. My family, close and extended, are the cornerstone of everything I do. Life-long friendships are in that list too. The habit of reading will be a comfort always, as will pleasures like tending a garden and making a quilt.

And then there are what I think of as life themes, the enduring relationships I have with people who I don’t know and stories that aren’t real.

Three things

The first of these enduring pleasures is the Star Wars universe. I saw the first Star Wars film as a dislocated and discontented teenager in East London (a backwater-ish coastal city in South Africa) and was transported with delight. I had never seen anything like it, and the thought that Luke Skywalker could get off Tatooine and fly meant that I was going to be able to do that to. I have seen all the Star Wars movies several times and don’t really care all that much if they are good, bad or indifferent. That cast of people and those faraway places are just part of my life.

Another enduring pleasure has two parts: the novels of Terry Pratchett, and in a minor key, the Hitchhiker’s Guide books by Douglas Adams. The two things came into my life at more or less the same time, and both have stayed with me ever since. These are books I will read again and again, for their familiarity and their fun. And, in Pratchett’s case, for his deep humanity, his intellect and his vision: he is the Charles Dickens of our times.

The third strand of my life for which I am always grateful is the music of Bruce Springsteen. When he came to South Africa in 2014, I wrote a column about his place in my life, which you can read here. What I wrote then sums up why it is that certain artists or writers come to mean what they do to us. I repeat it here, with words that start by referring to the joy of attending Springsteen’s 2014 Cape Town concert:

“For me it was not seeing the best live band in the world do their impossibly fabulous thing… It was the real-life embodiment of the long walk of faith and trust I have had with this artist: that he will keep writing, that he will keep performing, that he will keep being the best he can be for his fans… He is telling me… that he understands what it is like in this arc of life, now. He is telling me I can still get out of bed every day and take on the world and its wrecking balls, even if my hopes and desires are scattered to the wind.”

I’m aware that not everyone gets Bruce Springsteen, or likes Terry Pratchett books, or can sit through a Star Wars film. These particular things resonate with me, and provide a set of reference points as I navigate the world. My hope is that sharing my list will provide a springboard for identifying or finding your own compass in life.

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Main photo: Jordan Madrid on Unsplash

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