Art of the Moment : Simple Ways to Get the Most from Life

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2002-10-01
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter

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Feel the excitement of being here now! InThe Art of the Moment, bestselling author Veronique Vienne explores ways to get the most from life, one day at a time. Her signature essaysshort and sweet, yet insightfulare invitations to appreciate the uniqueness of each moment. Dismissing the notion that our notoriously short attention span is to be blamed for our distracted state of mind, she encourages readers to savor the fullness of life in brief, joyful installments. "Don't wait for a second chance to get it right," she says. "Each moment is both the last time and the first time because no two days are ever alike." Each chapter is a reminder that time is not running out. You don't have to rush to experience a sense of joy, wonder, and adventure. It's yours for the taking, whenever you are ready for it. You can claim the "now" while watering the lawn, taking a seven-year-old to soccer practice, buying a new pair of shoes, or daydreaming about opening a small bookstore across the street from the bank. This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoyed Veronique Vienne's now-classicThe Art of Doing Nothingand a perfect gift for anyone who believes that the ultimate art of living is to make each minute count. Beautifully illustrated with radiant photographs by Ann Rhoney,The Art of the Momentcelebrates the very specialjoie de vivrethat is your birthright. Prolong the Pleasure of Being Alive Don't wait for a second chance to get it right. Fold your napkin carefully at the end of a great gourmet meal. Have serious conversations with seven-year-olds. Forget to mention that you were right in the first place. Say "Don't ask" and "Go figure" rather than launch into tedious explanations. Reframe family pictures. Always have a kind word for people with old dogs. Look at the world as if you were a cat. Welcome unexpected interruptions: They are often the prologue to happy accidents. Think in the shower. Find a little more time to be with friends. Make the most of everything, one moment at a time.

Author Biography

Véronique Vienne is the author of <b>The Art of Doing Nothing</b>, <b>The Art of Imperfection, The Art of Growing Up</b>, and <b>The Art of Expecting</b>. Her essays on design and architecture, published in numerous anthologies, are now available in her book Something to Be Desired.<br><br>Ann Rhoney is a San Francisco– based photographer and the author of postcard books on New York and Paris. Her fine art photographs have been published in anthologies and are included in many public and private collections.

Table of Contents

introduction 9(1)
the art of joy
What Money Can't Buy
The Gift of Forgetfulness
the art of improvisation
Best Laid Plans
How to Be Suddenly Chic
the art of wonder
In Praise of the Short Attention Span
The Kodak Moment
the art of intuition
The Devil's Advocate
What You Know
the art of poise
The Role of Luxury
Let It Go Without Saying
the art of adventure
Happy Accidents
Expect the Unexpected
the art of love
Social Graces
Feel the Caress of the Universe
the art of reverie
Modern Laziness
Puzzles & Brainteasers
the art of serenity
Peaceful Rituals
Lesson in Quiet Gratification
the art of Prayer
Giving Thanks
conclusion 93(2)
a selected bibliography 95(1)
photo credits 96


the art of joy

On this earth, you get a prize for just showing up. Joy is your birthright. Now and then, all through your life, you can expect to feel lighthearted, often when you least expect it, and sometimes even when it's not appropriate.

But c'est la vie! Joie de vivre, as the French call it, is pure joy of living-a form of cheerfulness that ignores rationalization.

You don't even have to be happy to experience a spell of levity. It can happen when you are cranky, tired, sad, or worried. All it takes is a small inducement and the next thing you know, you are glad to be alive and grateful for the love you feel in your heart.

Maybe an old man with a kindly face sat next to you on the train and smiled at you. Or perhaps you just tried on a fabulous pair of boots. Or, possibly, you were taken aback by the glorious sight of fall foliage illuminated against a stormy gray sky. Suddenly, for a fleeting moment, you are emotionally fulfilled, at peace with yourself at last.

Personal achievements or successes are seldom the reason why you experience this particular form of happiness. In fact, the inexplicable nature of joie de vivre is a major part of its appeal. Mysteriously, you become enthused by the miraculous spectacle of ordinary life unfolding right in front of you.

You can be taken by surprise by a burst of elation even though you may be distressed about a situation at work, uneasy about an upcoming decision, or recovering from a sentimental breakup. All you need to feel joyful is an unexpected sunny day, an admiring glance from someone across the room, a line in a poem, or an invitation to catch up over lunch from a former boss.

This gift of instant joy is so much a part of the human experience that even the most cynical among us are not immune to it. Did you ever notice the way alarmists carry on with their pessimistic views? One can only assume that they find pleasure in it. And, to be honest, you and I sometimes derive a certain romantic satisfaction from our most indulgent bouts of self-pity.

Every so often, like it or not, our brain is washed over with feel-good chemicals-nature's reward to us for putting up with the world's troubles.

So instead of trying to cheer up when in truth you have no reason to be happy, give yourself a break. Don't put a brave smile on your face. Instead, look around and be open to what's out there. People-watching can ease your misery faster than swallowing pills. Joie de vivre, after all, was invented by the same people who gave us street fashion and terrace cafés.

But you don't have to go to Paris to find joie de vivre. Public places offer great opportunities to anyone in need of instant joy. Right on your block, pet stores, hairdressers, and pastry shops may provide serendipitous encounters likely to lift the corners of your mouth. Other rewarding venues include art museums, farmers' markets, picnic grounds, roadside diners, hotel lobbies, aquariums, and public libraries.

You never know when you are going to be overwhelmed with a sweet effervescence. This emotion could be triggered by the look of expectation on the face of a dog when its owner says "Let's go." By a teenage boy holding a welcome home, dad sign at the airport. Or by a little girl in her Sunday best sitting pretty on a suitcase at a bus stop.

Beware. Feeling blue is never an excuse for passing on a chance to feel joy.

what money can't buy

Money can buy some happiness-how about a Jaguar in the garage?-but no amount of cash can buy the gift of joy. No one can pay for something that life grants for free. "Bliss is the same in subject and in king," said English poet Alexander Pope.

Still, most of us will postpone appreciating life's fleeting rewards until we feel that we have enough money in the bank.

We can't truly enjoy sleeping late on a weekday unless it's a national holiday.

We would feel guilty cutting short a business trip to go fishing-only rich folks can take the time to goof off.

And leaving our cell phone at home when going on a five-day vacation is out of the question.

If you stop to think about it, it doesn't make sense: We save money in order to feel secure enough to enjoy the things that money can't buy. Why can't we give ourselves permission to take what's freely given? Why do we feel that we have to purchase our own joy?

Go ahead, make excuses for not being able to take it easy more often. The mortgage. The tuition. The taxes. The car payments. Not to mention the old boiler in the basement. Fair enough. Yet, as urgent as it is, financial pressure is not the only explanation for our constant toiling. In reality, we believe that we have to earn the right to have a good time. When it comes to feeling joyful, we don't want to accept any handouts from benevolent gods.

But don't blame Puritan ethics for your inability to bask in the pleasure of being alive. Twenty-five centuries ago in ancient Greece, the philosopher Epicurus was already championing a joie de vivre exempt from the trappings of opulence. In the refined school of hedonism he created in Athens, water was the usual drink and plain barley bread was shared among the students.

Even if you have everything-and can afford the best there is-discover how satisfying it can be to live simply, yet generously.

Try, for instance, to lend interest-free money to friends who need it-regardless of their ability to repay you promptly. Even better, if you can, just give the funds away without a second thought. Surprisingly, divesting oneself of extra cash can be a gleeful experience. With less change in your pocket, you'll feel liberated. Perhaps you'll do something silly, like eat cotton candy, go to a movie matinee, or sit down under a tree with a good book.

the gift of forgetfulness

"Happiness? That's nothing more than health and a poor memory," said Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer. A doctor, musician, humanitarian, and philosopher, he reinvented himself time and time again.

Enjoy your memory lapses-they make each moment a second-to-none occurrence.

. Be here now: Live as if you won't remember tomorrow what you did today.

. Be carefree: Forget what you think you know and let the world take you by surprise.

. Be blessed: Forget what you want but enjoy what you get.

. Be popular: Forget to point out that you were right in the first place.

. Be memorable: Take for granted that most folks will forget what you said but will always remember how you made them feel.

. Be generous: Between friends, forget what must be forgotten.

. Be truthful: Don't lie and you won't have to remember a thing.

. Be forgiving: Forget the age of anyone over 35.

. Be modest: Forget to mention your accomplishments.

. Be ready: This is it. The rest is but a memory.

Excerpted from The Art of the Moment: Simple Ways to Get the Most from Life by Veronique Vienne
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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