On smelling the proverbial rose Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Wednesday, 21 May 2008 02:00

Greta Garbo never said she wanted to be alone. She said: “I want to be left alone.” Ask any women – there’s a major difference.

Most of us seldom experience the luxury of solitude. Never mind solitude, our attention is pulled into so many directions at the same time that we cannot even focus on one thing at a time. As a matter of fact, we believe that we shouldn’t. Multi-tasking has become something to be proud of. It’s not. It’s actually the surest way of not being present at anything we do.

No wonder we complain about losing ourselves. The problem is that we don’t lose ourselves all at once, so we kind of don’t notice that it’s happening. It takes years of adding more and more plugs to the same electrical socket before the rapidly overheating doubleadaptors and multi- adaptors finally all burn out.

You know the story about the woman who suddenly, without any prior warning, threw her arms up in the air and ran screaming into the night while her family stared in disbelief? It was the last doubleadaptor that did it. Not the major crisis, but the last, tiniest little extra thing plugged into the system. You see, it’s not only tasks we try to do at the same time; it’s something unnatural that we do to time itself. We allow the future and the past to wipe out the now. The lines bleed into each other, the colours mix and we end up with mud-brown.

Can you recall a time when things weren’t a mud-brown whirl all around you? Oh, come on – don’t tell me about your childhood. You had no responsibilities then, so the multi-adaptor thing hadn’t been plugged in yet. Think more recent.

I’ll tell you when I’m pulled back into myself – almost like a ghost movie when you see the smoky outline of the apparition entering the solid shape of the body on a mountain top. My senses do it for me. Oscar Wilde said that nothing can cure the soul but the senses. Okay, granted – he also added “just as nothing can cure the senses, but the soul”.

All this curing only happens when we’re so overawed by our senses that future and past are both pushed back to exactly where they belong. And I can tell you the first time I was conscious of it happening – a building did it for me. La Sagrada Familia is the weirdest sandcastle-like cathedral you’d ever encounter on this earth. It stands in Barcelona and has been unfinished for centuries; they’re still busy adding new bits to it today.

Looking at it, I lost the trying-to-brush-my-teeth-while-I-make-the-bed-boil-the-kettle-and-start-my-computer self. That was the first time I remember fully sinking into myself. And I wasn’t doing anything. I was just staring. Someone had to pull me out of the way of an onrushing taxi, but that didn’t matter. Time stopped. I indulged in my senses. I wasn’t anywhere else but right there. Right then. Ever since then, I had a yardstick. Now that I know that it’s my senses that do it for me, I realise that stop-and-smell-the-roses didn’t start out as a cliché.

Look, girlfriend, I know that you’re a multi-faceted being; I know that you can jump through 17 hoops, while balancing a tray on your nose. I’m just saying that you’re not doing yourself any favours with this performing seal business.

And, yes, I know that in real life you seldom have the luxury of saying, like Greta Garbo, “I want to be left alone,” so that you can smell your proverbial rose. Never mind being fully present with all that you are in each moment. Just try to remember that it’s never an hour-from-now. It’s never an-hour- ago. However much we try to fool ourselves, it’s only ever now. Right now.



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