The greatest challenge is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How finding beauty in ordinary life can make you happy

From Monday's Globe and Mail

With fall glory gone and holiday hurry upon us, five Canadians pause to share a moment of wonder that stopped them in their tracks. What their stories have in common is sheer serendipity.

It turns out that identifying and appreciating beauty in the everyday is a happiness strategy. Some spiritual leaders advocate it as a way to feel divine energy. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, listed it as one of the 24 psychological character traits that make for happy, functioning people. It allows us to experience awe and wonder - to be elevated.

Great, but is that even possible in this dreary limbo of shortening days, after the glory of fall but before the festive season gets fully under way? To think about beauty in ordinary life, I asked five well-known Canadians to tell me (or write) about a recent instance of wonder.

For Instance:

Lesra Martin, lawyer and Literacy Ambassador for ABC Literacy

I'm not convinced that beauty is what we see. I think it's something that we feel. I was in Vancouver in early November and out the window, I could see this street full of trees. They were losing their leaves. I found it a bit sad. But my wife and kids were with me, and when the kids saw the leaves, they reacted as they do with a snowfall. They just wanted to go out and play in them. And that immediately changed my perspective. They find joy in it without reflecting too much. That feeling of circumstances shifting, of a change in perspective, is what I think beauty is. It emanates from within and helps shape who we are.

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, priest, Poet Laureate Emeritus of The City of Toronto

I was coming out the elevator doors in Toronto's city hall, fresh from committee meetings where strategies, costing thousands of dollars, had been discussed for how to make people happy. I see throngs of people gathered around the sound of a flute. Leaning against a pillar in the concourse is a weather-beaten, little old Chinese man, playing a 10-cent tin flute. Playing jazz, playing pop, playing classical. He is free. And he is blind. There's no collection. His granddaughter comes, gently takes him by the arm, and they go home. Blind and happy, he smiles. Clear-sighted and happy, the people go home. It is how we should live in the city - by the gift of ourselves, inexpensive and priceless.