One of my favorite lines from T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” As a young man I identified with that poem’s indecisive narrator perhaps more than I should have, and at times I looked around and felt as if my life was nothing but a collection of coffee spoons and paperclips and shoelaces. I have coffee every morning – two cups, with a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of cream. I used to look forward to that first sip of coffee because I believed the coffee was going to make me feel better. And then one day I realized I had it reversed. The coffee didn’t make me feel better – it merely matched a good feeling with which I had awakened.
It was a small thing, but I liked the coffee that much more after I understood it. I was no longer bound to the coffee for ten minutes of happiness. The coffee was an expression of my pleasure, not its fuel.
My life is still filled with shoelaces and coffee spoons, with doorknobs, and broken buttons, and cat hair, and unraked leaves. Yet I would live my life equally in every single moment, whether I am writing to my silent friends in a blog, interviewing writers, or tying my shoes. What I learned from my coffee serves me as well as what I learned from Gary Zukav or Geneen Roth.
If you try too hard to see the divine in every little thing you may fall short. The coffee spoon’s dull utility will seem a measure of nothing against a kiss. You needn’t try too hard; you need only be present. It is first and only what life asks of us: Be here. Everything in our life, from buttons to bellbottoms, was dreamed and made by someone. Be here for all of it to see what you will make.
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