‘Sometimes the wonder and beauty of life can be so overpowering that it takes your breath away. In those moments; in those pauses between heartbeats when the world holds its breath in ecstasy; the joy of being alive wells up from that quite place in the core of your innermost self and floods your body, mind and soul with wonder and, for an instant that contains an eternity, you have no choice but to believe in magic.” ~ SSHenry
Sometimes the beauty of existence really is too much to take in at once. Sometimes it is so beautiful that it makes your heart hurt. Of course there are other times when you feel as if your heart is being ripped out of your chest and the pain of it is enough to make you want to die.
But even the pain doesn’t discourage most people from sampling all that life has to offer. In fact, most people treat life as if it were an all-you-can-eat buffet. They skim down the line taking samples and tastes of those things that interest them. Sometimes they go back for seconds of something, but more often than not they try a small variety of things and call it a meal, and most tend to focus on those foods that they are comfortable with; foods that they have had before and enjoyed or that are filling or that at least didn’t disagree with them.
Interestingly enough there are seemingly only a limited people who choose to experience all of what life has to offer. Have you ever noticed that? Look around you some time. How many people do you see that truly throw themselves into their lives with sheer unadulterated abandon and enjoyment? How many people do you see that take advantage of everything life has to offer them; who jump at the opportunity to go to new places, meet new people and have new experiences?
Not many. Most people manage to find a comfort zone; an area where they feel safe and protected; where they feel as if everything is as it should be, and there they stay. They may include occasional forrays into areas that trigger awe or wonder, but for the most part they walk a fine line; an admirable and successful balancing act.
And yet there are thousands, maybe millions of people who each devote an entire lifetime to understanding just one little aspect of the wonder and awe of creation. They become enamored by and immerse themselves in one small piece of the puzzle and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else. It’s like going to the buffet and only ever eating macaroni and cheese or spaghetti even though there are dozens of dishes available to choose from.
Don’t get me wrong. It is important that we have those who can understand each of these interlocking pieces of creation. The knowledge and expertise of those who study just one area or who devote their time and efforts to adding to one particular field are to be commended. Their knowledge and expertise is priceless in the grand scheme of things, but I have to wonder how they do it. Their ability to focus on their one particular area to the exclusion of all others never ceases to amaze me.
Try as I might, I simply can’t focus on one aspect; one piece, one part of the picture; I never could. It’s not that I get distracted and can’t, but there is so much out there; so many beautiful and wonderful things vying for my attention; so many things begging to be understood and experienced that it seems a waste to focus on only one aspect to the exclusion of all others.
And so it is that I find myself sampling everything. Yeah, I’m one of those buffet eaters who will go down the line taking a sample of everything just because it’s there, especially if it is a dish that I have never tried before.
I actually had someone tell me once that they didn’t know how I did it. They couldn’t understand how I could have so many home improvement, gardening and organizational projects going all at once while simultaneously running my own business and keeping up with all of my other interests like playing the piano, writing, singing, learning guitar, painting, photography and reading nearly 200 books a year (yes, I do read that many, I’ve counted them). They told me that they couldn’t imagine doing all of that, that it would give them a headache to even imagine doing it.
I don’t remember now exactly what I said to them. I hope it was something nice, or at least polite. What I do remember is being astounded when they said that they felt uncomfortable doing more than one or two extracurricular things at a time. That they read at most a dozen books in a year and most of those were fiction.
To me the idea that there can only be one or two interests outside of your work and family (and those interests usually related somehow to the work that you do) was as baffling as my seemingly mish mash of a life was to them.
Now this in no way means that either of us is “right” in our approaches. I mean, without those dedicated to one particular aspect of creation there wouldn’t be nearly as many things for me to learn; not nearly as many fascinating books to read. As I said before, I admire their ability to focus; the dedication and commitment that they show to their work and the passion they bring to their area of expertise.
It also doesn’t mean that those who are only comfortable with one or two extra activities or those who aren’t big fans of reading don’t have a lot to contribute to our world. In fact, chances are that they’ve got more to contribute than I ever will. The house they built, the car they put together with their own two hands, the awesome food they cook that makes me drool when I smell it; I can’t hope to compete with that.
But man oh man; what I can do is to stop worrying about what other people think about the life I life. So they may not be ready to live the way I do – to experiences that I do. In fact, chances are that they have found their comfort zone regardless of whether they are focusing on one particular field or whether they have struck their own kind of balance between those activities and interests that appeal to them. This too is not “wrong,” it is simply how they choose to live their lives. But it is not how I choose to live mine.
I take one look at the buffet life has put in front of me and I have to try it all, or as much as I can get my hands on (and there are always those few people who seem to be hogging certain sections of the buffet, aren’t there?). I’m not saying that I pig out. I am not addicted to any one thing (such as food or sex or shopping, extreme sports or other addictive activities) I simply have to sample everything, even if it is only a taste.
Hell, sometimes I don’t even eat it; I simply put it on my plate so that I can admire it for its sheer aesthetic beauty because you see, I never know what is going to trigger that breathtaking moment of awe and wonder; that sudden sweep of sensation that floods you with wonder and makes the magic of life come alive and there is something; something that drives me to experience that moment over and over again and in as many ways as is humanly possible.
Come to think of it, maybe I’m not as different from those who dedicate their entire life to one area of research as I originally thought.