By: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nahrizul Adib Kadri
If a Neanderthal were to be invited to our homes for a cup of coffee and a plate of ‘pisang goreng’, what do you think will happen next? Yes, he might clearly be overwhelmed by the whole situation; but what I think will also happen is that he will start to look around in amazement. Once he understood that the coffee that he is drinking came from beans planted somewhere, roasted by someone, and finally transported to the supermarket before I brought it home; I believe that what he will be thinking, that all of this is:
In our modern lives, making (or ordering!) a cup of coffee may be the furthest thing that we might call ‘magical’. But to someone from a different culture and timeline (illustrated quite extremely above), this is exactly what should be defined as magic.
When we think about the things we eat, it’s easy to take for granted the incredible amount of work and resources that go into producing our food. From the farmers who grow the crops, to the truck drivers who transport them to the grocery store, to the chefs who prepare our meals, there are countless people involved in the process of bringing food to our tables. Similarly, the things we use and do in our daily lives, such as using a computer or driving a car, are the result of years of technological innovation and development. Each of these innovations required the contributions of countless people, from engineers and designers to factory workers and assembly line technicians. Beyond the human labour involved in creating the things around us, there are also countless natural processes at work that make our lives possible. From the photosynthesis that powers the growth of plants, to the water cycle that provides us with fresh water, to the carbon cycle that regulates the Earth’s climate, there are countless natural processes that sustain life on this planet.
Clearly there are so many different processes involved in creating the things that are around us today, and each one is truly magical in its own way.
According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Adelina Asmawi from the Department of Language and Literacy Education, Universiti Malaya, appreciating the little things can help improve overall well-being and mental health. “It can lead to a greater sense of gratitude and contentment, which can improve relationships, increase resilience, and reduce stress levels. By acknowledging and enjoying the small things in life, such as a warm cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset, or a good conversation with a friend, we can improve our mood and overall outlook on life,” she said.
Moreover, focusing on the little things can help us live more in the present moment, rather than constantly worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. By taking time to appreciate the small details of daily life, we can cultivate a greater sense of mindfulness and awareness.
In Stoic philosophy for example, the idea of focusing on the present moment and finding joy in the simple things is related to the concept of ‘living in accordance with nature’.
The Stoics believed that happiness and tranquillity can be achieved by living in accordance with nature, which includes being content with what we have and not desiring things that are beyond our control. By finding joy in the present moment and the simple things in life, we can cultivate a sense of contentment and peace.
They also emphasized the importance of gratitude, which involves being thankful for what we have, rather than always striving for more. The Stoics believed that gratitude can help us appreciate the small things in life and find joy in them, while also reducing our desire for more material possessions or status.
In conjunction with the Israk Mikraj, the magical ascent of Prophet Muhammad to the heavens in a single night, perhaps we should start looking at things around us as magical. By focusing on the magical things in life, we can cultivate a greater sense of gratitude and joy. It can help us appreciate the simple pleasures that life has to offer and remind us that there is always something to be thankful for, even in the midst of difficulty or adversity.
Looking for the magical things in life can help us develop a greater sense of curiosity and wonder, encouraging us to explore and discover new things in the world around us. It can also help us develop a more positive and optimistic outlook, even in the face of challenges and setbacks.
The author is the Director of Corporate Communications Centre, Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at email@example.com