After checking off a major “bucket list” item by recently visiting London and Paris, I’m reflecting on how excited and grateful I was to come back home to Middle Tennessee.
London is a fast-paced, multi-cultural odyssey of cool history and awesome views. One can truly feel like a citizen of the world in that atmosphere. Paris is a charming, gorgeous city with incredible food everywhere you turn and a distinct culture that appreciates art and literature.
Before visiting these cities, I sometimes fantasized about living in either one. After going and returning, it’s not that I’m opposed to ever residing in Europe for a season…but more that I appreciate the life that I have to a greater extent.
The key insight came to me while catching my breath in the midst of the massive Louvre museum in Paris, where Mona Lisa, Venus and thousands of other works of arts have taken up residence. The balance between “a simple life and a cultivated mind” is the elusive sweet spot, I realized.
What does that mean?
A simple life is soaking in and celebrating all that surrounds you right now: Family, friends, neighbors, and the home you’ve already established. It’s about resting and reflecting, tempering your ambition with authenticity, finding wide-open spaces and taking care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually while executing your responsibilities.
A cultivated mind is one that initiates occasional travel to interesting places and calculated risks. It is the product of a formal education, of lifelong learning, of steady reading and building rapport with critically-thinking individuals. It is a constant reminder that the world does not revolve around you, your personal beliefs or your town.
A person is most at home in a simple life when he or she is regularly cultivating the mind. This dynamic tension between simplicity and cultivation defeats both boredom and burnout, which are the two circumstances that can undermine the best of us.
Visiting Italy, the home of my ancestors, remains on my (shorter) bucket list. Hawaii is on there as well, along with publishing my own book and publishing lots of short stories (a new writing interest that emerged during this trip).
But the list also includes providing well for my family. And being a good, moral person on a daily basis.
And a final item is on there now as well: keeping things simple yet cultivated.
Au revoir for now.