Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Interesting Interests

Entirely self-involved, we hardly but can see things from our own perspective. (Does compassion come ‘only’ because I feel good about being aware of practicing it?) Our own perceptions do govern our apprehension of life, and the Oscar Wilde statement, “I’m only interested in...” strikes me as a symptom of our human condition. We are raised to respond to external stimuli. Something or someone outside of ourselves needs elicit our interest. Flowers, bees, spiders, and snakes! Beauty, ugliness, accidents, and loud bangs! Something grabs the attention. And as judgementalism goes: “Inferior talk is about things; mediocre talk is about other people; and superior talk is about ideas.” We are given to absolutes. We are governed by the majority. And we certainly also have a collective common sense. It is those who break the code, who betray our common values, who step out of the box that we find ‘interesting’. After all, the poor bird that bashed into the window, lying now upside down but moving, remains more interesting than those flying freely around. And since it is outside, we may watch with interest sufficiently long enough until the concussed thing flits off again. For some brief moments, in all of this, we forget about ourselves, entirely captivated by the drama without, and in that catharsis we experience but brief surcease from the perpetual self-involvement that inhabits our own corporeal state of being; release is a feeling we instinctively seek, again and again. And finding something to interest me, as the acculturation of my learning has established, becomes a lifelong pursuit. After all, that which you find so interesting, indeed, may not much interest me.


It is a phrase often heard. Our ‘taking’ an interest in something seems to elude us, generally. Were we to suffer solitary confinement, be penned up in some dim cell with virtually no outside stimuli, we might begin counting the cracks in the wall, the number of tiles, the threads in our clothing, the.... we might ‘make’ something interesting. After all, as the poet Earl Birney has it, (in the poem David) “caught on a cliff ledge, our frozen fingers and boot-nails clung to the ice, we recalled the fragments of poems”. That is, from inside the self, there is best to come that curiosity toward life that precocious children tend to exhibit. Questions. Observations. Arrested interest, yes, but then a readiness to find almost anything else also worth examining. We are better off “to take an interest in,” than we are to have something “make us interested”, indeed.

And yet...

Real life, lived life, is about hierarchies. Preferences abound. This is better than that. More is often more desired, than is less. Our five senses guide our sensibilities. Our moral rubrics; our acculturated physical codes; our liabilities and consequences; our sensitivity, and productivity, and our very inclination is driven by our proclivities born of a lifetime of acquisitions. We may indeed accrete, but do we do so entirely horizontally, ever expanding our knowledge and reach, or do we consciously go about improving vertically, enhancing our enlightenment and intuition and comprehension and integration? The questions are not always rhetorical. The choices are not always a simple uni-dimensionality of left, or right? ‘Less’ is decidedly not necessarily worse than is ‘more’. And in our every encounter on the road of life, as we, like any other vehicle, are contractually bound to obey speed laws, are necessarily subject to the traffic around us, and are indeed contained in the vessel transporting us, we are subject to things being interesting, (and may as well also take an interest in that which is all a real part of the ongoing journey.)

“Are we there yet?”

The same road, travelled very many times over, perpetually reveals something not seen before. It is because of the light. It is because of the focus given in a moment. It is because of others who point out things one has not hitherto noticed. It is because life itself is so very rich and vibrant with change and possibility and potential and interest (that word) that we can always find things to be interesting. At issue is, how ‘to make things interesting’, and not to be dependent on things interesting me; that’s how to be invigorated! (Or do I hereby speak just for myself? Hm?)

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