mamamusings: December 18, 2004

elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Saturday, 18 December 2004

urban ennui?

It’s not uncommon to see urbanites complaining about the relentless boredom of the suburbs, comparing it to the life and energy of the cities in which they live.

But I was struck today when reading Alex Wright’s description of a meditation retreat he took this fall. I found his post via Molly, who pulled out this quote:

…But when you sit there for two weeks of staring into the void, doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, what slowly dawns on you is this: that we spend our whole lives looking for a result that never comes. We try to improve ourselves, get noticed, get rich, get a better house, a better relationship. Most of our lives are spent trying to change the situation, or to change ourselves. And none of those strategies ever seem to work. Most of us walk around in a perpetual state of mild disappointment. This is also known as samsara.

In my experience (limited though it may be), this sense of constant unfulfilled pursuit is much more common in the city dwellers I know than it is in my fellow suburbanites. Me, I’m no longer looking for a result that never comes—I have the things I most want all around me. Two beautiful, healthy, wonderful kids. A husband who loves me. A job that’s challenging and fulfilling. Friends who make me laugh and keep me sane.

This is not to say I don’t want to continue to improve myself…but it’s not a search, it’s not a desire for a result. It’s simply part of who I am, of my process of living.

I don’t have to travel 22 hours to get away from the kind of perpetual searching and reinvention that Alex describes. Today I can sit quietly in my simple suburban house, looking at my very unsophisticated christmas tree, and know that the lovely lunch of chicken soup and brisket that I had with my family at my mother’s house today is about as good as it gets. And I find in myself no disappointment at that realization—only gratitude.

ps I should add that I very much enjoyed the description that Alex gave of his retreat, and can certainly see and appreciate the value of such an experience. I was only responding to the perception of widespread dissatisfacation in everyday life.

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Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna