Thinking About the Philosophy of Small Things and Eating Bagels in Cape Town on a Rainy Day

in #philosophy5 months ago

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The rain fell in ever so small droplets. We call it “geel perske reën” or directly translated as “yellow peach rain”. Why it is called this I have no idea. But this rain reminds me of the Cape, and I am sure so many others are also reminded of the Cape. Days on end the fine mist of rain wets everything. These days call for soup, bread, wine, and a fire keeping you warm. But we did not have this luxury as we needed to travel into town to pick up a package before our flight.

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So, we did what every sane person would do, and we bought some nice bagels! The cute little shop shouted at us when we walked past it, it wanted us to come in. It was cosy and reminded me of the many similar shops in England. I will always cherish the memories of walking into the coffee shops, dead of winter, my glasses fogging up with the immediate change of temperature and the smell of different coffees brewing; pour over, espresso, teas brewing aside the coffees. The screaming of coffee machines frothing milk, the loud clutter and talking of everyone trying to fit into the small coffee shop, hiding from the winter cold. But the smell… The smell is what gets me. The smell of freshly ground coffee, water being poured over it, it reminds me of a specific time in my life.

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And here, we found a little gem selling perfectly delicious bagels. Everyone was nestled inside of the small shop. It was warm and cozy, maybe there was a fire going on in the back. The shop was loud with the chatter of everyone talking about their rainy-day business. The smell of coffee drifted from the shop next doors, but it was a complex smell of rain, as the door was open, coffee, and bagels being baked.

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We ordered two: bacon and egg, and smokes salmon and egg. We could not sit down; the shop was literally overflowing with patrons. The car was not parked too far from here; we dashed for the car and made it just before we got too wet from the rain. Similar to my glasses fogging up, the car windows fogged up. The smell of bagels in our hands, our stomachs asking for the food. Coffee in our systems, we were reading to go.

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And this whole ordeal again just reminded me of the complex nature of inconsequential and small things in life. We buzz through life wondering why time flies so quickly, but it is us who forget to take in the small things. We are often told that our day-to-day lives does not matter, that we are mere cosmic dust arranged in a certain way destined to return to this form. But this could not be further from the truth. The factual statement might be true, but the phenomenological one is not. Our lives are not inconsequential experiences. If one believes that, then yes, their day-to-day lives will be mechanistic and not worth living. Then food and drinks (water) will become merely something you need to consume to stay alive, the flowers on the side of the road mere colours hitting your retina, the wind blowing through your hair nothing but air moving.

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When you understand that life is full of finite experiences, short moments that gets bunched together, then you will know that life is not too short, it is actually really long. We spend so much time doing things that make time go faster, for example, mindlessly scrolling through internet posts, and looking at videos that we will not remember the next morning. But if we took that half an hour or two hours to appreciate the taste of a croissant, or the taste of the coffee, or look at the flower, or let the wind blow through our hair and touch our skin, we will not say life is short. Saturating ourselves in the present, giving over to our senses, is such a profound idea. Food will taste differently, even water will taste heavenly. None of these acts are mindless activities done for some other end or goal. Instead, we do everything for the sake of doing that thing. When eating, appreciate the texture and the taste and the smell of the food. This obviously necessitates that you eat something worth experiencing, but even a cheap fast-food burger sometimes tastes heavenly.

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Our lives are sometimes dictated by others. Heidegger called it “das man” or “the they”, the crowd, the population behind our follower counts, the anonymous people walking on the street. We live for these faceless crowds, our actions dominated and dictated by them. We forget about our own living; we will eat the croissant and drink the coffee not because we want to but because we want to appease the crowd that judge us. But as soon as you cut this tie, and you begin to live in the moment for yourself, even the cold water you drink will taste like wine or manna.

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Alas, this is not the easiest thing to do, as most people inherently live mechanistic lives, merely putting one foot in front of the other. Many philosophers, starting with Socrates 2500 years ago warned us against living our lives unexamined. We should not go about life in an unconscious manner as this will not be real living. Problems and all, this hits the nail on what I want to get about in this post: enjoy the small things. The bagel on a rainy day is not merely food that you need to survive. The rain on your skin is not a bad thing. These are all things we need experience in a way as to remind us we are alive, we are living.

In any case, I hope that you enjoyed this longwinded post by a very tired philosopher. For now, enjoy life, experience the moment, and stay safe.

The photographs used in this post were taken with @urban.scout’s iPhone. The musings are my own, albeit inspired by these inconsequential moments.

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Loved this. What is the point to a life? Bagels enjoyed are just as vital and life-ful as other things. You seem very in the moment, full of appreciation for life as it is, right now. And if one of the meanings of life is happiness, then a bagel counts. Even rain is happy if you look at it a certain way - one just trains ones reactions. A minor inconvenience for a greater good, usually. I am wet, but will soon be dry. The soil is nourished.

My son and daughter in law make great bagels. They are easy! have you ever tried?

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Oh wow those look so delicious right now! My stomach is empty at the moment so that photograph is so tempting!

I have actually never tried it yet. The boiling step always holds me back from trying it, no idea why. I have gotten stuck on ciabatta, focaccia and normal sourdough loaves for years now, and like a donkey, I am hard to deter from my direction, or something like that!

But that is no reason not to try it.

For sure, happiness is, in my opinion, the very search for happiness! Or something philosophical like that. The small things in life is what makes it worth living, if you know how to then appreciate the small things though.