It is said that a key to living a joyful life is to focus on the simplicity that is life and not get caught up in its complications. That would be the message resonating most with me at this time of the year – that the true meaning of Christmas lies in the simple joys we can experience. And yet, I would also argue that part of the joy that I derive from life comes from the moments when I can experience the exceptional that surrounds me.
The exceptional beauty that exists in nature, when we actually pause to look and study a snowflake, or listen to the tweets of chickadees as they feed on the seeds from winter plants. The exceptional innocence in our grandchildren’s amazement and desire to dance and clap their hands when they are happy to see you and the exceptional talent and genius of ordinary humans that have designed and created everything that makes our days so much easier.
Simple or exceptional, what is important is stepping out of what we call ordinary lives, long enough to be present so we can appreciate our surroundings and our blessings. Having the ability to notice how blessed we are to live in 2021, when our life is simplified by inventions and technology – that allow us to have hot water by turning a handle, to have light by flicking on a switch, or be instantly connected to anyone, living anywhere by a variety of practical devices that can take a picture, make a call, show us a movie, or allow us to listen to music.
We have such ease and simplicity in our life, thanks to exceptional humans who pursued a spark of imagination of what could be and had ideas and passion that yielded great works of art, and inventions.
I woke this morning with a desire for simplicity, inspired to experience classical music created by famous composers like Mozart and just follow my thoughts to where my mind took me. I turned on lights, filled my glass of water, inserted airbuds in my ear while I scrolled through hundreds of playlists available to me, and began to write this blog, which will be published instantly when I decide its ready and available to anyone in the world who so desires.
I am amazed that I have the ability to listen to an exceptional classical piece, created by a human who who be 275 years old today, in a time when he was writing with a feather dipped in ink, by candlelight and sipping tea that was likely heated over a wood fire, from water brought up from wells, and carted in hand-made pottery.
Finding joy sometimes requires that we step out of our routine and try something different. Like me, you might enjoy listening to classical music today, even if it is for 15 minutes. Maybe you close your eyes, and let it transport you, understanding that travel doesn’t always require that you pack a bag. I put the following list of suggestions together, should you be inclined.
Classical Sampler for the Season
- Tchaikovsky -The Nutcracker – is something of a Christmas tradition. The festive tale of a toy soldier that comes to life has endured over the years but it’s Tchaikovsky’s music at the centre that makes it special.
- Vivaldi – Winter – Few composers ‘get’ winter quite like Vivaldi – though it begins dramatically with a stormy first movement, the beautiful second movement is a cosy delight to be enjoyed with a nice drop of mulled wine.
- Handel’s Messiah – this is a big one! It has been one of the most popular pieces of classical music for hundreds of years, thanks in no small part to the famed Hallelujah Chorus. The tradition of performing it at Christmastime can be traced back to early nineteenth-century America, and today orchestras all over the world present it every year as an annual holiday tradition
- Bach – Christmas Oratorio – An established classic which describes the nativity, the adoration of the shepherds and, and naming of Jesus.I am feeling satisfaction.
- André Rieu – incidently, the only one on this list that is still alive, Andre Rieu may be best known for giving epic concerts of Strauss waltzes, but he also knows how to do Christmas. His Christmas concerts usually come from his castle in Maastricht, where you can expect fake snow, festive tunes and plenty of Christmassy waltzes. Marvellous!!
May you find joy today – and gratitude – in the simple things of life like having electricity and in the things that are truly exceptional like sunshine!