We have likely all been told that “the best things in life aren’t things.” It rings true enough, and it feels nice to say it–to know that someplace it is Truth–and yet the knowing gets askance too often. Not because we don’t believe the veracity of the declaration, but because it is difficult not to value “stuff” or to ignore the very tangible importance of “things.”
It is not about possessiveness or being greedy, even: “stuff” does very much keep us alive. We all need food, shelter, clothing, blankets to keep us warm, diapers for the baby, books and school supplies, dishes, pots, good shoes. We may need–in varying necessities–phones and computers, cars or bikes or Metro-cards, refrigerators, a place and way to cook, wash our bodies and our clothing. We certainly all require clean water, healthy air, protection from the elements, from violence and harm. We need care in time of illness.
(For more about helping provide clean water, check: Charity:Water)
In our Westernized, motorized, modernized, accessorized life, we may indeed require quite a few “things” to allow us to get to, do, and keep our job. We need to put aside resources for a rainy day (and may need gutters and galoshes for a similarly more literal day, too). We better save for retirement, consider life insurance to protect dependents if we have them, ask for a raise if we had earned it, quote fair payment for our services.
It is easy to look at sayings about “the best things in life aren’t things” as overall smile-worthy but not terribly practical realities. Something to say when one wants to comfort another who lost their life’s saving in a market crash, their house to a fire, or their designer boots to slushy sidewalks. It is something to tsk-tsk about when a “thing” awakens the small green nibbling worm of jealousy, or when we witness outright excessive greed.
And yet, even with the “things” we need and the “stuff” we want and the possessions we accumulate, require, and acquire–the Truth remains: The best things in life indeed are not things. No matter how much we need things, items, technology, materials and goods and measurable contents; these items are not what a best life make.
Connection does. The togetherness of happy moments. The contentment of a job-well-done or of creative engagement. The giggle of a baby, the eye-contact that brings on an attack of silly belly-laugh. The exhalation of waves upon the sea, the whisper of leaves in the forest or the big-sky of the prairie. These are the makers of best lives.
As is Love, as is Beauty. The warm breath of a sleeping toddler in your arms. The mere presence of a loved one. A memory of fondness. A swell of gratefulness. The depth of prayer. Awe. Hope. Faith. More love.
Those are the things that are not things and yet make the “stuff” we need, worth having. They give meaning to keeping our bodies and our souls connected, help us get through the times when “things” turn scarce and worries many. They make life thrive. They are how tapestries of hearts are woven.
The running feet of little ones, the concentration on their earnest faces. The solving of a pesky problem. An ‘aha’ of understanding. A common bond. The wonder of belonging, rather than belongings. The sweetness of a ripe fruit. The saltiness of tears overflowing a full heart. The blessing of knowing.
May the things that are not things keep a full presence in your soul’s pantry, may your mind be rich, and may you never go bereft of wonderment and heart-ship.