Perhaps when you were a small child, if you were anything like myself, you often found yourself asking questions such as “would you rather be and an elephant or a flamingo?” And which you obviously responded by choosing “flamingo,” because who wants to be clumsy, large, and smelly elephant wandering the Sahara.
After that question, desiring one a bit more challenging, you might ask yourself, “would I rather be blind or deaf?” This certainly is much harder and requires a great deal of thought as a seven year old. But I promise you every child has asked themselves this question if both of these faculties are in working order, even if you must sport the occasional pair of glasses. If not yourself, for sure that annoying kid on the playground bothered you with this conundrum. Any grown-up would suggest such questions are a waste of time, even frivolous, but I would posit that it not true.
In fact, I am going to ask you for a brief moment to imagine being blind. Suspend what you believe to be as reality and repaint the picture, this time without your eyes. That is what you have been given, no sight, but a fresh perspective. Let’s begin:
It’s morning and you can feel the brisk air caressing your skin as it dances from you elbow to your cheek. Walking briskly you begin to smell, life, earth and the city. It is different, not as clean as you imagined, but full of movement. Suddenly, your ears come alive as you listen to the cars bustling through the streets in a fine symphony of horns, brakes, and the slightest hum fading as it passes. You are on your way to the train station, a short walk, nearly 15 minutes.
Without a moment to spare you find your way into the Boulangerie. As the creaky door swings open, a swift breeze of bread and flaky fruit filled pastries tickle your senses. A simple smile slides onto your face, as you ponder the choices before you. You cannot see them, but you can certainly smell the hard work, the early morning rise to bake them, and the tradition and recipes behind them. And just as you think that you have decided exactly what you will order, the baker greets you from behind the counter with a warm welcome. Bonjour!
After you receive your order, you leave with a crinkly sack in hand with a slight increase in pace. After all, the train will be coming soon. Swinging the sack at your side, you continue on your way, crossing the street. You pause and wait for the stilling of the air, and the slightest softening of the pavement as cars glide to a stop. Whether you know it or not you are being motioned on in your journey.
Yet the air is not stagnant, every breath brings in new perfumes of roses and lilies and cherries hanging ripe from the trees. It is a whirlwind of ecstasy as the fresh scent seems to crowd out the city sewer smells. Before your journey ends you must pass through the open air market. Racks of clothing and shoes and goods dangle everywhere to form a rain forest like extravaganza. A canopy of meats, trees of clothes, a forest floor of shoes, it is all there complete with vendors and people shuffling through. It is chaotic and your way is never the same as you weave and bob through this thick forest of things. No one voice is distinct as the many combine to form a chorus singing. Finally you emerge from the hedge to find the train station, and a thick heavy brisk wind once more. This time, not cars passing, but the train zinging to a stop.
We need a change in perspective. We need to find the courage to stop relying on what we think we know, and embrace something that has always been there, but never felt. I often get so wrapped up into my daily routine that I never stop to experience what is living and breathing around me. It’s about time I found space to just be and allow what I experience inform my perspective, not the other way around.