Bates: "But what would it tell me? They sleep in a bed? They eat at a table? So do I."
I love this quote from Sunday's episode of Downton Abbey for its quiet profundity.
If you don't watch the show it may not make much sense so here's the gist: The aristocratic Crawley Family decided to open up their home (Downton Abbey) to the locals for six bits each in order to raise money for the local hospital. The household staff were in disagreement about whether or not this was a good idea and were discussing it during a break between household duties. Mr. Bates was neither in favor or opposed, merely puzzled as to why anyone would want to take a tour and thus ensued the above conversation with his wife, Anna.
Bates has always been a realist, comfortable with his position, never aspiring to a heightened position or lamenting his fate as a Valet, simply seeking whatever happiness can be found in his life as it is. But this line hints at a deeper wisdom.
An understanding that underneath the trappings of this life (or of life in early 1900's England) we are much more the same then we are different. We all sleep in a bed, we all eat at a table. (At least those of us fortunate enough to have either.)
At the end of our last day it won't much matter if that bed was made by Sealy or Duxiana, that table set with Corelle or Noritake. What will matter at that moment will be how much we learned, and how well we loved.
Mr Bates it seems, has known this all along.
A large part of the spiritual journey it seems to me is to learn to die gracefully, peacefully, and with dignity, hanging on loosely as you finally let go. And life is a chance to practice this every day, in every situation and circumstance in which we find ourselves.
I'm with Mr Bates on this, rather than look outside of ourselves - to the lives of others - for our answers and our aspirations, why not look inside and find our happiness there?