By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 26, 2017
I was driving the back roads to Mass early one morning, when I spotted a most unusual sight.
Trotting down the sidewalk in a rather jaunty fashion was a good-sized, quite furry fox. There was no one else around, so perhaps I was the only witness to this startling event—which brought me an intense amount of happiness.
Ever since reading “The Little Prince,” I’ve had a fondness for foxes, for in this tale—beloved to children and grown-ups alike—this animal plays an important role.
The fox longs for a friend, so he asks the little prince to tame him—and the child agrees. Then, when it’s time for the boy to leave, the fox shares a secret with him.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
When I was in college, I was a philosophy major, so I pondered quite seriously many of “Life’s Big Questions,” with one intriguing me the most: What is happiness?
As for unhappiness, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard described an unhappy person as “always absent from himself,” meaning he was pondering the future or the past.
In short, one characteristic of happiness is savoring the present moment.
Although we have to plan for tomorrow—ensuring that we have food in the house and clean clothes to wear—the danger comes from spinning out elaborate daydreams about the far-flung future.
What will we do when we retire, when the kids grow up, when we graduate, when we get a promotion?
The future is a sandcastle that can be knocked over by a big wave of reality. And when we become too involved in crafting future fantasies, we waste the only time guaranteed to us—the present.
Years ago, my husband and I built a small stilt house on a Florida island, where we went to escape city life.
The house overlooked a large plot of untamed land, providing a gorgeous view of the marshes, the seabirds and the sunset.
Yours truly would sometimes gaze at the marshes, while simultaneously fretting that someone would buy that land someday and build a house—and we’d lose our magical vista.
Obviously, the more I pondered this future possibility, the less I actually savored the sights right in front of me.
There was no way I could foresee the real future, in which someone did indeed buy the land—but never built on it.
Unfortunately, I had left my Christian beliefs behind, so if someone had pointed to Christ’s words, I probably would have been unmoved.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Each day also brings moments of joy—but we must remain attentive to appreciate them.
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” wrote Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”
Keeping our hearts attuned to the present helps us see this grandeur. The clouds are shifting their shapes every moment, while daffodils inch their way hopefully toward spring.
Our creed tells us God created all things visible and invisible. This includes hosts of cherubim and seraphim singing his praises in heaven—and the occasional fox, here on earth, prancing down a city street.
Artwork (oil on canvas, “Old Man Willow”) by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef. Please contact her for information about purchasing his artwork. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.