The Consolation of One Plump Red Strawberry

I have a big box of bookmarks from all over the world. I love to read, and as I begin a new book I enjoy selecting just the right bookmark—one with an appropriate color, design, and theme.

The other day I was in the dumps. In need of a bookmark, I went to my box and suddenly, surprisingly, pleasure blossomed. Just the sight of all those bookmarks lifted my mood and changed my whole day. Such a small thing!

My bookmark design for SAME OLD, SAME NEW

My new book, Same Old, Same New: The Consolation of the Ordinary, is basically about gratitude, about thankfulness for small things. If we lose that, we’ve lost everything. And we are in danger of losing everything, both as individuals and as a culture. The opposite of gratitude—despair—is on the rise. Resentment, greed, anger, hopelessness, moral mayhem—all the marks of a dying civilization are rampant among us. Just as every civilization before us has died, we too now teeter on the lip of the abyss. 

Probably you know the story of the man who was chased by a tiger when he came to the edge of a cliff, and seeing a tree branch hanging down, he grabbed it and swung himself over. Dangling there with the tiger growling above him, he noticed a strawberry plant sprouting from of a clump of dirt on the cliff face, and on this plant one plump red strawberry. He popped it into his mouth and oh!—how perfectly delicious! 

Sorry, but that’s the end of the story. No magical deliverance for this fellow, just a lovely strawberry before … well, you supply the rest. 

By all means, let us do everything in our power to stop the slide of our culture into chaos. Let’s not lose hope. But let’s also acknowledge that we may not be able to put on the brakes. What to do? Pluck the strawberry and enjoy it. Find something small to celebrate. Find one thing—anything—to be grateful for. 

This is no counsel of fatalism. Quite the contrary, this is how hope is renewed. While great structures crumble, the consolation of the ordinary will save the day. The word consolation, besides its common meaning, has a specialized spiritual import. In this latter sense consolation is the opposite of desolation, connoting a feeling of divine presence, comfort, even ecstasy.

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” Forget the surface and go deep. Go down, down, down until you touch the bedrock of reality, and there take your stand. Where is reality? You’ll find it in small things. But you may have to look. You may have to practice looking. Like the old man who lost his glasses, he found them in the last place he looked. But what if he had thought to look there first? Keep looking and looking until you find. You may not achieve the big things you want, but you can always have small things. Take consolation in the ordinary. 

An excerpt from Same Old, Same New: The Consolation of the Ordinary by Mike Mason

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