nature

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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road in forest

You Are Alive

There are few things as deeply discoverable as those discovered alone. When you are alone, you see things differently. You see them through your own eyes. And through your own eyes, you witness pieces of the world so often overlooked in the company of others.

Walking alone, you notice the gentle rays of the sun pouring through broken leaves. Trees moving. Roots meandering beneath your feet. And you connect with something you rarely encounter amongst others.

Your hearing is clearer.

Your eyes open wider.

And in that moment, you become a part of the cosmos. You seep back into the soil from which you came. And everything about that moment brings you to the realization that you. are. alive.

You are here.

This is now.

This is you.

And the best thing to do with this moment or the next is to take it to be a manifestation of what you are capable of being. What you are capable of achieving. And where you are capable of taking your life within this mysterious yet intricately discoverable universe of magnificence.

on top of the world

Never doing it is very exciting

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There is little as exciting as the desire to climb higher – to stand on the topmost edge of a cliff and peer across the ocean into the endless promises hidden in the skies. Yes. It is an exhilarating thought. But it remains a thought. It lingers as a desire.

And yet, it is this desire that continually prompts us to want more from life – to keep searching and to keep trying until we really do find what we think we’ve always wanted.

For some reason, however, it never really dawns on us that once we reach that topmost point, peer across the ultimate view of the world and get a glimpse of what we are able to obtain and achieve, the anticipation and the mystery dissolves into the sudden realization that this is all there is. There is no higher edge than the one we’ve just reached. There is no vaster ambition and our new sententious being will never again exalt itself, now that it has reached its full potential.

It is Andy Warhol who said that fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting. The most exciting attractions are the ones between two opposites who never meet.

How do you resolve such paradox? Do you choose to avoid the highest peak in order to rest easy with the knowledge that there is a higher peak, or do you proclaim to explore it? Do you end your story with the penultimate paragraph, or do you keep climbing?

To keep climbing would probably require tedious amounts of effort. You’d have to fight the pain from your broken bones; fight the fellow hikers who broke them. You’d probably even have to leave some hikers behind. And you’d undoubtedly have to fend for yourself because no-one in his right mind is going to carry you up a mountain. You have to do it yourself. It really just sounds like a personal war.

Then again, if you settle for what you are familiar with and set up camp just below the summit, perhaps you’ll never know what you missed. You can’t miss the unknown, the obscure and the unfamiliar if you’ve never seen it.

Alternately, maybe you should revisit your intention for climbing the mountain in the first place. Are you climbing it because you feel obliged to, or are you climbing it because you want to see for yourself what the world looks like from up high? Do you climb to the top to see the panoramic view of the place where you rush every day to fulfill your responsibilities, or do you stay on the ground because really you don’t have the guts to sit at the edge of a mountain and muse over the possibilities and the promises and the mysteries?