About two weeks ago we discussed the online readathon, Jane Austen July. Of course, not everyone is going to be intrigued by such an event. Many people don’t care for Jane Austen, some prefer to avoid reading classics, and others may not consider themselves readers at all. All are valid reasons to not take part in this readathon. However, in light of the event, I have been considering many of the things we as individuals living in the 21st century can learn from this well-loved Regency author.
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with opinions and information. We can hold the knowledge of the world in the palm of our hand. Yet despite its usefulness, it can honestly be overwhelming. Many discussions have been had regarding the growing prevalence of burnout and mental health struggles amongst the rising generations. Some blame it on bad parenting, others blame it on flat laziness. I would argue that instead of considering how people themselves have changed, we should be focusing on how our world has. With so many things battling for our attention, how can anyone be expected to avoid feelings of anxiety. So much anger and hate is being placed right in front of our eyes. We no longer need to seek out a newspaper to see and hear it. It’s right in our pockets.
So how can we avoid such overwhelming information. Two-hundred years ago, the world was much simpler. Yes there was fear and uncertainty, there always has been, but there was also more focus on simple joys. In Jane Austen’s novels we not only read of romance and passion, we also read of individuals going for daily walks, playing the piano, having conversations with neighbors, reading books, spending time with family, and enjoying an occasional society ball. They loved nature as well as the beautiful creations of men. Though they all felt stress regarding their future and present predicaments, they dealt with that stress by seeking simple pleasures in order to open their minds to new ideas and resolutions.
We live in a much different world to Miss Austen. There’s much more to take up our time and attention. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take time every week, if not every day, to enjoy the simple pleasures around us. Take a walk, really listen to music, visit a neighbor or talk with a family member. These things, though small, have the power to relieve some of the power of the pandemic of anxiety that is running rampant today. Such relief, in turn, will make every aspect of our lives more bearable and make our problems seem more approachable. Though she may have lived a long time ago, Jane Austen recognized a truth, universally acknowledged that a person who is overwhelmed must be in want of the simple pleasures of life.