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.
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 –