Great Oaks, Invincible Summers

A Great Oak

One of my favourite ways to feel better is to draw a massive oak tree. Draw it right off the page. Fill it with strength and life. I highly recommend it.

I’ve been thinking about Albert Camus again a lot these days. His idea that in the face of the crazy absurdness of our existence, there is a wonderful response: get outside, stroll along a beach, play some football, enjoy the sunshine, and (when possible) have lunch at a cafe with a friend – basically enjoy life in whatever way the moment allows (more on this in my Being Happiness podcast ep.7 on the meaning of life.)

I’m sure you’ve read this quote of his: β€œIn the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” (from Return to Tipasa)

I feel like that these days. This is proving to be a hell of a winter, but we all have an invincible summer inside. It’s part of human nature, it comes in the pack! And it’s worth rediscovering. When I’m drawing oak trees, listening to lovely music, when I get outside for a walk, enjoy loving available company, play, write, enjoy a great meal, read wonderful books, lie in bed enjoying the sound of the rain, then I’m in touch with my invincible summer. I’m on the right track.

Sometimes a decision has to be made on waking in the morning. Tired, a little grumpy, lying there in bed, I think, “O.K., which way do you want this day to go? Grumpy or Happy?” And I think, “Happy”, and the effect is immediate. In fact it’s a question that can come up again and again throughout the day. The happiness choice can be made every time – if I’m lucky enough to remember in the moment that I do have that choice.

And days… each day is exactly all that we have got. This from the wonderful Awareness by Anthony de Mello (I really recommend listening to the very wise, very funny audiobook version, the original talks by him, you can get it on Audible):

“You want to hope for something better than what you have right now, don’t you? Otherwise you wouldn’t be hoping. But then, you forget that you have it all right now anyway, and you don’t know it. Why not concentrate on the now instead of hoping for better times in the future? Why not understand the now instead of forgetting it and hoping for the future? Isn’t the future just another trap?”

Yes! We “have it all right now“. The future is completely out of our hands, but how we deal with today isn’t. The capacity for wonder and joy and delight in any one given day is in our hands. Which way we turn, what we choose to let in, how we choose to live this day – our decision.

Most days I get it wrong and get lost somewhere along the way, but deep down I know this: that I don’t want to live with a furrowed brow. I don’t want to invite things in that are going to furrow my brow. I want to live brightly, pursue things that make me happy, read things that make me laugh (P.G. Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves is currently taking care of that) and have a good time. Why not? Really, why not? Camus got it – the world is mad, existence is completely bizzare – go and enjoy it!

I’ll end this post with another blooming great oak tree. Just like the invincible summer, within us all, there lies one of these as well.