“All things are not shining, but all the shining things are.”
This is the final line in the epilogue for the book All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly.
To me this line beautifully captures a deep and pragmatic wisdom.
It is akin to the idiom about pessimism and optimism, where one can see a glass of water as half-empty or half-full. Yet it goes further than this by saying, “this water stuff is amazing!”. Not only is the glass half-full, but what is there is shining and brilliant.
To me the world is like this. There is a lot wrong in the world. A lot of suffering, dysfunction, incompetence, ugliness, evil even. There is also a lot of brilliance, and grace, and joyful exuberance.
The fresh morning air as the sun is rising. The sweet, playful chirping of birds. The infinite shades and hues adorning our visual field. The glint in the eye of a loved one. The taste of a perfectly ripened peach.
This is a way of seeing the world that brings it more to life.
Many of us are plagued with a negativity bias, a tendency to focus on what is missing or wrong. This seems to be evolutionarily rooted, but that doesn’t mean it is inevitable or unavoidable.
No matter how horrific things are, they don’t cancel out the beauty and grace in our world. Learning to see and adequately savor the things that are shining, is an essential practice for living well.
Even if it’s just once a day, see what is shining in your life. See if as a practice you can savor it 1% more each day.