My coffee wasn’t right this morning, and I don’t know why. It had been brewed just as it usually is, with the usual amount of scoops and water. I used the usual amount of cream and sugar. It was even in my usual cup. But it didn’t taste right. It was still good, but not great. Something was a little…off.
That would seem a small thing to most people, but not me. I need my coffee in the morning, and when it’s a little off, it affects other things. It’s like the first domino that trips and causes the others to fall, and that’s exactly what happened to me today. My coffee was just a little off, which made everything else seem the same way.
Like the weather. Today had that crisp quality that November in Virginia always seems to promise—the air was cool, the skies blue, and I could look eastward to the Blue Ridge and westward to the Alleghenies of West Virginia. But there was a breeze. November brings a wind to this valley that cuts through every layer of clothing you wear and into your bones. That’s the sort of wind that blew today, and hard enough to keep me from enjoying the scenery outside. It was good weather, yes. But just a little off.
Lunch wasn’t that good—filling, but not very palatable. The ride home from work was quiet, but it was marred by the road repairs I had to navigate through and the traffic that surrounded me. The nightly routine was just that—routine. Nothing horrible happened, but neither did anything wonderful. It was good, but just a little off.
Now, as I lay here in bed and recall the events of the day, I can honestly say that I can summon not one thing, not even one moment, that has been truly satisfying about my day. Everything fell just a bit short of the mark. In fact, the past nineteen hours or so have been just the opposite of today’s lunch—on this day, my life has been palatable, but not filling.
It would be easy for me to blame the coffee for all of this. After all, that’s where my existential angst had its beginning. And if I could stretch that notion out a bit, I could almost rationalize a decision to concentrate all of my efforts tomorrow morning to make the best cup of coffee I can. Maybe then my day will be filled with all manner of sublime satisfactions.
I really don’t think that’s true, though.
I think if it wouldn’t have been the coffee, it would have been something else. Our days are full of those minor irritations that tempt us toward dissatisfaction. In a world of incalculable joys, there still doesn’t seem to be enough of them to grant us the peace we all crave.
I think deep down we all know this. But there’s such an air of pessimism in the thought that we’re all doomed in this life to forever seek and never really find. It’s much easier and much more hopeful to convince ourselves otherwise. If we do a little less of this or get a little more of that, the elusive satisfaction we’ve always sought will finally be ours.
We humans have been thinking that for a while, haven’t we? And chances are we’ll be thinking that for a while more. That longing is part of who we are. It’s what makes us a little lower than the angels, and what often gets us into so much trouble.
I’ll try to remember that next time. I won’t expect true fulfillment from something as silly as a cup of coffee or the weather or a meal or even the incalculable joys of this world, because they can’t give that to me. Everything will always seem just a little off for us in this life, and that’s because we were made for the next one.