Some more crack-of-dawn visits to the BBC (stunning sunrise over Titanic Quarter as I was driving past this morning) means that I have had more Thoughts for the day!
Last week we were thinking about pet peeves – those little annoyances of everyday life that make the blood boil. We’ve all got them – like my uncontrollable rage when people don’t indicate when they’re leaving a roundabout – leaving me stuck there like a prune shouting “Indicate! Indicate!” while perfectly good chances to join the roundabout slip by because somebody couldn’t be bothered to move their hand the one inch that it takes to signal when they’re taking the exit.
A quick text around my family and friends revealed a few of our least favourite things:
– people who put trousers into the wash with a tissue still in the pocket
– one car taking up two spaces in a packed car park
– being ignored in favour of a mobile phone
– customers who don’t tidy away their trays at a fast food restaurant
– being interrupted before you finish your sentence
– using the word “hashtag” in everyday conversation
– people who don’t wave ‘thank you’ when you let their car out at a junction
– having your grammar corrected – and
– people who use bad grammar
(just to prove you can’t win)
Looking at my little list, it strikes me that the vast majority of these peeves could be solved or avoided if we were all just a tiny little bit more kind and thoughtful. Forgetting to indicate, neglecting to tidy up your tray or failing to jump back in the car to park between the lines, to pick just a few examples, can just easily happen because we’re so busy and stressed and worried and overwhelmed and distracted that the little tiny kindnesses can sometimes be the first things that get sacrificed to the frenzy of modern life. Our faster cars, phones, connections, expectations sometimes leave us too frazzled to just be good to each other.
But if we’re trying to live by Jesus’ famous maxim in Matthew 7, “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”, then the rubber actually hits the road of that principle not in the grand gestures but the little everyday details. ‘Do Unto Others’ doesn’t involve selling all your goods, wearing sackcloth or lying down in puddles for people to walk over you – we wouldn’t expect anyone to do that for us. It simply involves, every so often, pausing, taking a breath, taking the extra few seconds to be kind. Or to indicate when you’re about to leave the roundabout.
So that was last week’s Thought – but after we’d been on the air, I thought: Pet Peeves? Am I turning into a grumpy old man?
So this week, out went another text – what are the little things that make you irrationally happy – the simple pleasures of life? So here are a few of our favourite things:
– Someone making you a cup of tea when had just been thinking about making one for yourself
– Plunging your hands into hot water after you’ve been outside in the freezing cold
– The first espresso of the day
– Singing along at the top of your voice to cheesy pop when you’re on your own in the car
– Crunching through drifts of Autumn leaves
– Lowering yourself ever so gently into a steaming hot bath
Something I noticed last week was that almost everyone’s pet peeves involved driving – is it possible that we’re all at our most easily annoyed when we’re behind the wheel? And this week I noticed that almost everyone’s list of favourite things included a cup of tea – tea and toast by the fire, a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit, drinking tea while watching rain on the windows.
So – drive less, and drink more tea. It’s the secret to happiness.
Some people who replied both weeks commented that it was much easier to think of a list of simple pleasures than pet peeves. Maybe I have a very sunny bunch of friends, but I think there’s something in that – how important it is to give more energy to noticing, recognising and being grateful for the simple pleasures than dwelling on the annoyances and frustrations of life. In the words of the Apostle Paul: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
And one more simple pleasure to add to the list: Settling down to watch a new episode of your favourite TV program for the first time. And because the best programme in the history of the universe returned this weekend, I’ll finish with a quote from an old episode of that well-known authority on all matters philosophical and spiritual: Doctor Who. In a bit of a barney with the remorseless universe-conquering Cybermen, the Doctor asks: When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal? The Cyber Leader replies: These things are irrelevant.
And in return The Doctor speaks for all of us: For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about…