Recently I reflected in my post “‘I’m Bored’ vs. the Cultivation of Wonder” on the first meeting of our newly formed Chesterton Society in Branson, Missouri. In that piece I discussed briefly my own realization, which lies at the heart of Chesterton’s Tremendous Trifles, that our lives should be characterized by making ourselves small and the world big and learning to wonder at the mundane things in life. Chesterton has done this brilliantly in the collection of essays that he calls Tremendous Trifles.
Around this same time, I finished reading the book Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. In this thoughtful book, Pieper proposes that in order for the perfection of human society, “there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation.” In the accompanying essay in this volume, The Philosophical Act, Pieper explains this contemplation by proposing that “the beginning of philosophy is wonder.” More specifically, Piper asserts that “the deeper aspects of reality are apprehended in the ordinary things of everyday life and not in a sphere cut off and segregated from it, the sphere of the ‘essential’ or whatever it may be called; it is in the things we come across in the experience of everyday life that the unusual emerges, and we no longer take them for granted–and that situation corresponds with the inner experience which has always been regarded as the beginning of philosophy: the act of ‘marveling.’
Pieper, like Chesterton, considers marveling at the ordinary things of life not only an important philosophical and cultural act, but the important act, for such celebration of life can only happen through divine worship. When we engage in contemplation, marveling and wondering at the ordinary things in life, we are in fact worshiping the God who created this world and put us in it to enjoy it.
In light of these reflections on Pieper and Chesterton’s work, I thought it would be advantageous to my spiritual and intellectual life, and hopefully beneficial to others, to write my own tremendous trifles. However, since I make no claim to the writing abilities of Chesterton, what will follow in this series, although modeled after Chesterton’s Tremendous Trifles, will be my own reflections on the ordinary things in life, a series which I have chosen to call Mundane Meditations. I hope you enjoy.
Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, trans. Alexander Dru (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2009), 41.