I spent the pandemic lamenting things I could not do — no restaurants, no movie theaters, no museums. I was excited when I got to go back to my favorite Mexican place, the neighborhood movie theater and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The enchiladas were better than the frozen kind. “Together Together” was OK, although I wouldn’t suggest going alone. Monet still knows his way around a water lily.
Now I am realizing that many of the things I missed do not take much time. My post-pandemic self needs to appreciate more than just my much-improved Saturdays. I don’t need more experiences as much as I need to more fully experience what I am already doing.
I don’t need to look forward to my trip to Yankee Stadium as much as I need to pay attention to a hundred things a day. I don’t need escape from daily life as much as I need to transform daily life. I don’t need to look forward to other moments as much as I need to be present in this one.
I need to live with Albert Einstein’s Holy Curiosity: “Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when (one) contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to contemplate a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
I want to feel like a mystic:
- Sleeping gratefully in a freshly made bed.
- Raising my arms above my head when I roll out in the morning.
- Watching the hot water steam up the mirror.
- Aiming my toothbrush at teeth that feel neglected.
- Putting on a jaunty pair of argyles.
- Asking to pet other people’s puppies out for their morning walk.
- Holding hands with my wife.
I want to taste like a mystic:
- Savoring the difference between cream and vanilla in my coffee.
- Convincing myself that Froot Loops are different flavors.
- Imagining lunch 30 minutes before lunch.
- Recognizing how amazed St. Paul would be by microwaveable chicken noodle soup.
- Splurging on the $15 mixed nuts and picking out the cashews.
- Ordering grilled onions on my hamburger.
- Eating one piece of watermelon with salt and another without.
I want to smell like a mystic:
- Breathing deeply while walking down the street knowing that I might regret it.
- Slowing down when passing a coffee shop.
- Enjoying the petrichor — the smell that accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.
- Recognizing the differences between the smell of the river and the smell of the ocean.
- Hanging out in the theater lobby smelling the popcorn.
- Buying lavender-scented bubble bath without embarrassment.
- Lighting candles because I should be surrounded by huckleberry sugar blossom.
I want to hear like a mystic:
- Giving thanks for the hum of the air conditioner when it’s 90 degrees outside.
- Guessing who’s coming down the hall by the rhythm of their steps.
- Anticipating the pop when I open a new jar.
- Asking, “What kind of bird am I hearing?” around people who know such things.
- Listening to the Avett Brothers without telling anyone that I’m cool enough to listen to the Avett Brothers.
- Listening intently to nearby conversations to which I have not been invited.
- Listening for cliches — crackling fires, falling rain, sizzling bacon.
I want to see like a mystic:
- Picturing frames around my friends and imagining them on the wall at the Met.
- Reading more poetry and less news.
- Paying attention to clouds and saying, “There’s Elvis”.
- Watching the cards being shuffled.
- Noticing those who are usually overlooked.
- Staring at the faces of people I love.
- Looking for chances to wake up.
Henri Nouwen writes, “We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises. … Imagine that we could listen to the voice saying to us: ‘I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it!’ Imagine.”
It’s time to live like mystics.
Brett Younger serves as senior minister at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.