escape

Shut your eyes and see

It took me three years to realise that I was wrong.

For a really long time, I believed that the most important things in life are captured by the eye. It’s kind of like a window to the soul thing in which your eyes allow for you to discover the world and read people and learn things and expand horizons. I thought that you could feed your soul through feasting your eyes on amazing and beautiful places and things and people.

But I was wrong.

It has been almost three years since I first read James Joyce’s Ulysses. There was a sentence that stood out as if it were being shouted at me…

“Shut your eyes and see.”

I re-read it at least fifteen times before my brain was able to wrap itself around the confusion.

Shut your eyes and see.

I’ve been wrestling with it ever since…

What I see through my eyes are signatures of all the things I have been placed on this planet to read. But somehow there is a limit to that. There is a limit to what can be seen. Limits to discovery. Once you’ve seen it all, you are done. It is done. You have done it. You’ve seen it.

You’ve travelled to Germany and you’ve seen their giant pretzels and now you can tell everyone about it and show them the pictures when you get back home.

But really you did so much more than that.

There is something bigger than seeing everything.

There is something to which there really is no limit.

Something you can never exhaust.

Because there is no limit to what can be felt.

And that is why, when you shut your eyes, you really see.

You discover more. You delve deeper. You understand better.

You comprehend.

That is why, when you shut your eyes and allow yourself to experience and to feel, I imagine you create the most powerful of memories.

It is huddling around that table in the freezing cold enjoying a glass of Glühwein with people who speak in your native tongue.

It is standing in the rain in Amsterdam with a friend you only met twelve weeks ago, but who somehow has become a soul more connected to you than even some of your lifelong friends.

It is climbing trees in the Gooise forest with the sound of summer hissing from the treetops.

It’s not about where you go or where you’ve been or what you’ve been taking pictures of.

It’s about the one thing no-one can take away from you.

It’s the memories.

It’s eating a bowl of bitterballen in a restaurant in Utrecht not because you’re hungry, but because they have heaters that will help bring back the feeling in your hands.

It’s listening to Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 – the saddest classical symphony of all time – over breakfast with friendly strangers in Belgium.

It’s stroking your fingers across the rough sand of the North Sea.

It’s dancing so joyfully the soles of your shoes tear off.

It’s cycling against gale force winds in aggressive rain and complete darkness through the narrow paths of ‘s-Graveland.

It’s falling off bicycles.

It’s thinking about the people you loved when you were home.

It’s the nostalgia when listening to that song from that drive to the ocean that day.

You must remember this.

It was all I had.

All I’ve ever had.

The only currency.

The only proof that I was alive –

Memory.

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An adventure in the now

I don’t get jogging. I don’t get how putting that strain on your legs and your body and your lungs is fun. Let your lungs rip just doesn’t resonate with me. Sprinting I get. If I need to run from danger I will do the fast run. But no. I will never jog.

A place where people meet up for a jog would be a good place to hide something from me.

So I spent the past weekend drinking wine amongst vineyards in the Franschhoek Wine Valley. And while I was sipping on a glass of Grenache, and characteristically spilling it all over myself, I felt a tiny little surge of what people call happiness. Sitting in the sun. Drinking wine. Sharing thoughts with smart people. In a wannabe French town. In South Africa. Right here at home. And it was good.

But for years I’ve made myself believe that South Africa isn’t enough. It’s not enough to have a dayjob and it’s not enough to grow roots here and it’s not good enough to settle for something as simple. I should leave. I should explore. I should meet new people. I should speak new languages.

And I’ve saved and saved and saved everything I earn. Everything. I wear clothes I bought three summers ago and I never go anywhere and I restrict my budgets because I’m saving a bunch of money for an escape. In my refusal of mediocrity. But then I realised that I haven’t really been living. I’ve been holding so tightly onto a goal for my future that I’m purposely pushing aside the short-term ones that would make me happy in the meantime.

And I blame all of it on jogging. My need to sprint to the end-line is making me fly by all the little experiences I could be having in the place I’m “adventuring” in now. It’ll be quite some time before my dreams of running really far away will realise. If they ever will.

Also, jogging is hard. It’s like you’re getting somewhere but you’re getting there really slowly. And it hurts, man. Jogging is not done quietly. And it takes a really long time to get used to it. Though I’m hoping my proverbial legs and lungs will forgive me by evoking the endorphins my soul has so desperately been craving. So in the meantime, it’s a mini-venture towards making what I have and where I am exciting and memorable.

Maybe it’s not always the far-off places and culture shocks or language barriers. Sometimes it’s just making music. Or reading books. Or maybe it’s just you and your mind and your thoughts and pushing them to the limits in the meantime.

Let’s be adventurers.

If they cannot be literal and geographical,

let them be intellectual, emotional, spiritual, interpersonal,

and my very favourite 

CREATIVE.

Because: onward.

Who wrote the rules?

I don’t know what his name is, but some guy, one day, wrote something about leading a balanced life…working 8 hours a day, sleeping for 8 hours, and then spending the other 8 in leisure. Very balanced indeed. Thank you, man from extremely long ago. Whose rules apparently still apply.

mountain view

The condition of the instrument determines its success in observation and measurement. If the instrument is broken or damaged, its measurements are bound to be off. Its ability to capture what it has been designed to observe will be altered. It will not succeed in its purpose. We can try and fix it. Glue it back together and re-calibrate, though it may never be as effective. The changes we try and make to it alters it to such an extent that its original purpose somehow becomes void of meaning.

Perhaps we, as instruments, are always too involved in the prospect of the future, too busy trying to be effective, too distracted, too patched up and too obsessed with what we’re trying to measure, to be open to each new experience. Maybe the only way to be fully present is to not be present. To take a step back and change perspective.

If we could see things outside of the long telescope we’re always looking through that always either points from our eye and our memory of the past towards something tangible in the distance… If we could see beyond the small, magnified part signifying the direct past and future – maybe we’d become enlightened by the paths we’ve not yet contemplated for ourselves.

But an image like that, within our direct frame of reference, remains unimaginable. Intangible. We are in many ways unable to wrap our minds around something we’ve not seen or explored or been taught before. Because we’ve been conditioned to believe that life is what it is.

That we’re all meant to follow a pre-ordained path that leads to the same little pot of treasure at the end of the apparent rainbow. That it is normal to succumb to the universal law of mediocrity. To the voices of intellectuals of past centuries. To live by rules set by people who lived in a different lifetime. When opportunities were not as vast. When the world was not as small. When all the answers to life were not yet a click away.

The rules of life have changed. It’s just that we don’t really write them down anymore. And we don’t really educate people accordingly anymore. But that does not mean these rules don’t show significant difference from the ones written by philosophers of the medieval age.

Break free. Make your own rules. It is no longer 1640 and it is also no longer 1980. Look past the future that dead people seemed to have planned for you. Do what makes you happy. Run if you must.

Our journey as human beings is not about following a pre-ordained path, but about creating that path. Life rarely makes any more sense when things are done “in order”. Life makes sense when we are centered in our hearts and we let go of resisting how our unique journey needs to unfold in its own beautifully unruly way.