Seeing the familiar with new eyes

12/09/2013 § Leave a comment

It’s been a good summer. I have spent lots of time outdoors, in the woods, by the sea, in good company. I had no real urge to write my blog, although occasionally I would notice it, calling to me gently, tugging at my sleeve and reminding me I still have stuff I want to share. It’s nice to be back.

One of the themes that kept coming up over the summer was the value of finding a new perspective. It was refreshing, after many months spent largely indoors (we had a long winter in the UK), to hang about outdoors, revelling in the long days and warm breezes. I loved spending time with my son, catching a glimpse of what the world looks like through his eyes. I also spent time hanging out with some trees, in a wood in Devon, and this was a profound experience.

It’s a cliche, but nonetheless true, that “familiarity breeds contempt”. I prefer to phrase it differently, that familiarity squeezes out life, but it is the same thing. I find that if I view the world through the same eyes from which this Patrick thing has looked out at the world for the last 50 years, it can easily look rather dull, predictable and lifeless. It becomes a world to be managed and controlled, and sometimes to be feared, to run away from. But as soon as I change my perspective, the deadening fog clears and the world becomes alive with new meaning, new possibilities and new adventures to be had. look up2

Use a telescope to look at the stars, or a microscope to look at the back of your hand. Quieten your mind, open your heart and truly listen to another human being. Sit in the woods and wonder what it feels like to be a tree. All these are ways in which we can get a new perspective.

This can get addictive. It’s such a thrilling feeling to gain a new perspective that it is tempting to chase it. In a vain attempt to permanently escape the deadly dull feeling of over-familiarity, we change something external in our lives — move jobs, move house, change our partner, leave the country. But this only lasts for a certain amount of time, doesn’t it? Sooner or later we end up behind the same old screen again, a bit older and wiser perhaps but still filtering everything we see through familiar thoughts, fears and prejudices.

Yet there is always hope. Rather than big steps, we can just try little ones, day by day, moment by moment. We can go to a cafe to work rather than to the same old desk, walk a different way home, switch off the familiar drone of Radio 4 and scare ourselves silly with the depth of the silence. Try it!

And maybe, just maybe, if we can keep doing this we will eventually find that we don’t need to go anywhere or do anything to shift our perspective, to break out of the shell that encloses our being. We can simply be and connect with the sheer wonder of the universe of which we are a part, marvelling and delighting in the beauty, magnificence and craziness of it all.

I have a feeling it is going to be a great autumn.

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