Do you remember being a child and demanding a cup of water? I used to act like I would drop dead without a drink, then when I was finally given some I would consume it like some sort of desert hermit refreshing themselves at an oasis. Think about ‘refreshment’ for yourself. Does it conjure up images like a child is refraining from breathing so they can gulp down every drop of water then contentedly slapping the cup down on the counter? Perhaps you think of ice lollies in the summer, a good night’s sleep, or going on a retreat.
I spent some time earlier this year scrutinising Heidegger’s thoughts on poetry, language and art. Heidegger is trying to grasp some simple truths, yet it is the simple that is often overlooked the most. To counteract that, he investigates ordinary, everyday experiences and comes to significant realisations about how refreshing everything truly is. Marcel Proust summarizes it nicely by saying, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Seeing things with new eyes is the ability to stare at an every day object, like a clementine, and not overlook it because of its familiarty but to stop and consider it – to think about why it is orange, then think about that face that orange is a color once deemed by ancient people, and then, perhaps, consider how colour is a refraction of light based upon a molecular structure that is somehow processed by the eye in conjunction with one’s neural pathways.
This experience can help us to realise that we are fundamentally different to our surroundings, and that realisation can be like waking up. We can ask questions like why is the clementine there in the first place? When did that clementine come to exist? What is it to exist, anyway? The clementine is suddenly a mysterious thing. It is there in the same way it was a moment ago, but it is also there in a completely new way. I can take it and feel it anew, realising how refreshing it is to investigate this thing I just took for granted and see it in a new way. Suddenly, everything is refreshed once more.
Sources of refreshment are everywhere around us, it is just a matter of learning to open up our senses to the mystery of those things we take for granted. Can Heidegger and Proust teach us anything about being refreshed in our work, our faith, our relationships? Who knows! I think I’m going to start by downing an ice-cold glass of water. I’m going to drink it like it’s needed for me to keep living in that very moment. I’m going to feel the cool, refreshing, unique taste of that clear liquid and try to experience it as different from any other. Where will you start?
Written by SCM Member Michael Lucero