''Have a good day'' has become a most common comment, in vast sections of the Western world. One hears it from people in one's home, from tradespeople, cabdrivers, telephone operators, and friends. One hears it to such an extent that I start to wonder, ''What constitutes 'a good day'?'' And then I wonder, ''What can I do to ensure 'a good day' for myself?''
I think that ''a good day'' may be relative, and that what is ''a good day'' for one person may be an abomination to another. For example, I am married to an intellectual, a scholar of infinite energies. To him, ''a good day'' is the exercise of the intellect, whereas I suspect that for me ''a good day'' is apt to be centered in the country, where the good air, as well as the peace and quiet, is salubrious. I am quite aware that this attitude is not universal, and that there are those who prefer the clang of subway trains to the chirping of birds.
For me, ''a good day,'' in a country setting, is apt to involve a return to Chinese philosophic verities which extol a unity of man with nature. I am apt, on ''a good day,'' to observe the graceful movement of a bamboo bush . . . the staccato conformation of a pine . . . the luxuriant unfolding of the whitest peony . . . the inexorable strength of hardest rock. . . .
But the observation is not an end in itself on ''a good day.'' The observation carries in its wake an eternal reminder of symbolisms rooted deep in Chinese thought. As I observe the bamboo waving with a gentle to-and-fro in the breeze, I think of the ancient heritage of bamboo symbolism: strength, to tarry with the winds of life but not to break. And in my observation of the pine comes another deep awareness, again that of strength, but this time because the pine weathers the coldest winter without a loss of leaves.
Now this philosophical contingency to my observation is not merely in the abstract. It stimulates probing and inquiry within me. It is finally and profoundly introspective. Am I strong? Am I waving and not breaking, as the bamboo suggests? Am I strong? Am I weathering my winter without a loss of leaves or cheery demeanor, as the pine suggests?
And ''a good day'' for me need not be a sunny day. It can be foggy, overcast, or cool. It can be snowy, drizzly, or rainy. I try to emulate the Chinese naturalists, or ''hermits,'' who found beauty in the day regardless of the climate.
''A good day,'' then, for me, becomes a day of sublime inspiration - a day wherein I have the opportunity to bring my own attitudes in line with ancient Chinese wisdom, which is as viable today, in all its art forms, as it was three thousand years ago.