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  • Were surrounded by some powerful ideas about the sort of things that will make us

  • happy. We tend to think that really to deliver satisfaction, the pleasures we should aim for need to be:

  • Rareweve inherited a Romantic suspicion of the ordinary (which is taken to be mediocre,

  • dull and uninspiring) and work with a corresponding assumption that things that are unique, hard

  • to find, exotic, or unfamiliar are naturally fitted to delight us more. Then we want things to be expensive, we

  • like economic endorsement. If something is cheap or free, it’s a little harder to appreciate;

  • the pineapple (for instance) dropped off a lot of people’s wish list of fruit when

  • its price fell from exorbitant (they used to cost the equivalent of hundreds of pounds)

  • to unremarkable. Caviar continues to sound somehow more interesting than chicken eggs.

  • Then we want things to be famous, in a fascinating experiment a celebrated violinist once donned scruffy clothes and

  • busked at a street corner and was largely ignored, though people would flock to the

  • world’s great concert halls to hear just the same man play just the same pieces.

  • Lastly we want things to be Large Scale, we are

  • mostly focused on big schemes, that we hope will deliver enjoyment: marriage, career,

  • travel, getting a new house. These approaches aren’t entirely wrong, but unwittingly they

  • collectively exhibit a vicious and unhelpful bias against the cheap, the easily available,

  • the ordinary the familiar and the small-scale. As a result: if someone says theyve been

  • on a trip to Belize by private jet we automatically assume they had a better time than someone

  • went to the local park by bike; we imagine that visiting the Uffizi gallery in Florence

  • is always going to be nicer than reading a paperback novel in the back garden. A restaurant

  • dinner at which Lobster Thermidor is served sounds a good deal more impressive than a

  • supper of a cheese sandwich at home; it feels more normal that the highlight of a weekend

  • should be a hang-gliding lesson, rather than a few minutes spent looking at the cloudy

  • sky; it feels odd to suggest that a modest vase of lily of the valley (the cheapest bloom

  • at many florists) might yield more satisfaction than a Van Gogh original. And yet the paradoxical

  • and cheering aspect of pleasure is how weird and promiscuous it proves to be. It doesn’t

  • neatly collect in the most expensive boutiques. It can refuse to stick with us on fancy holidays.

  • It is remarkably vulnerable to emotional trouble, sulks and casual bad moods. A fight that began

  • with a small disagreement about how to pronounce a word can end up destroying every benefit

  • of a five star resort. A pleasure may look very minoreating a fig, having a bath,

  • whispering in bed in the dark, talking to a grandparent, or scanning through old photos

  • of when you were a child and yet these pleasures can be anything but small: if properly grasped and elaborated upon,

  • these sort of activities may be among the most moving and satisfying we can have. Appreciating

  • what is to hand isn’t a slacker’s solution. It isn’t an attack on ambition. But there

  • is no point in chasing the future until and unless we are better at being more attuned

  • to the modest moments and things that are presently or readily available to us. More fundamentally,

  • the smallness of small pleasures isn’t really an assessment of how much they have to offer

  • us: it is a reflection of how many good things the world unfairly neglects. A small pleasure

  • is a great pleasure in-waiting; it is a great pleasure which has not yet received the collective

  • acknowledgment it is due. Appreciating small pleasures means trusting our own responses

  • a little more. We can’t wait for everything that is lovely and charming to be approved

  • by others before we allow ourselves to be enchanted. We need to follow the muted signals

  • of our own brains and allow that we are onto something important, even though others may

  • not yet be in agreement.

Were surrounded by some powerful ideas about the sort of things that will make us

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B1 UK pleasure small appreciating satisfaction modest ordinary

Why Small Pleasures Are a Big Deal

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    Zoey posted on 2017/01/26
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