The First Cup of Coffee

Ever read anything by Amor Towles?  If you haven’t, and do, expect a treat.  (A Gentleman in Moscow is a brilliant place to start.)

For me, it is like being in the presence of someone who is marvelously attentive, refreshingly insightful, and appreciative of great books.

I read his Rules of Civility about a year ago (so, the beginning of the COVID-times).  I have considered the following bit, from the mouth of the book’s narrator, since.

My father was never much for whining… He certainly didn’t complain about his health as it failed.

But one night near the end, as I was sitting by his bedside trying to entertain him with an anecdote about some nincompoop with whom I worked, out of the blue he shared a reflection which seemed such a non sequitur that I attributed it to delirium.  Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke in the morning he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee.  Only decades later would I realize that he had been giving me a piece of advice.

Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane – the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath – she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger.  What my father was trying to tell me, as he neared the end of his own course, was that this risk should not be taken lightly: One must be prepared to fight for one’s simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements.