South it is then. Hold on, little Shirelings. I always like going south. Somehow it feels like going down hill.” The Lord of the Rings
Treebeard’s delight in a detail as small as the direction in which they would walk prompts thoughts of the many small things in which are found contentment, peace of mind, a sense of the world being a good place. Even with conflict all around, Treebeard is able to draw on past memories of heading southwards. Is finding a sense of well being in trivial details not something universal?
Thirty years ago, Ian Dury made a lengthy list of things that created a sense of well-being, his Reasons to be Cheerful included:
Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good Golly Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley, add nanny goats.
Eighteen-wheeler Scammels, Domineker camels
All other mammals plus equal votes
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willy
Being rather silly and porridge oats.
What direction would match Treebeard’s delight?
Maybe westwards, constantly heading into the setting sun, heading away from the big cities on the eastern seaboard of this island.
And what would be on a Dury-like list?
A very prosaic assemblage, certainly nothing that rhymed.
There would be the N11 through the Glen of the Downs and the road along the shores of Carlingford Lough.
There would be eating Softmints on the DART and drinking tea in The Silk Road cafe.
There would be the voices of Kerrymen up for the All Ireland and the accents of the Ulstermen down for the rugby.
There would be the bust of Michael Collins in the Hugh Lane Gallery and that of Tom Kettle on Saint Stephen’s Green
There would be the seated Patrick Kavanagh beside the Grand Canal and the buxom Molly Malone at the foot of Grafton Street.
There would be Yeats and Joyce and Beckett and Heaney.
There would be green Christmases and June evenings.
The list could be lengthy; little moments of happiness, little indications of beauty and peace and well-being in the world.
And when people come to church? Are they not looking for a similar sense of peace, a reassurance that there are good things in the world? And what if we send them away without such a sense? Have we not failed the God who offers reasons to be cheerful as well as rules and judgments?