I bought some replacement spectacles for my wife today. She is very much the glasses wearer nowadays. I, on the other hand always pride myself on the excellent vision I have been blessed with. My hearing is terrible, I constantly seem to be saying “pardon”. I think it’s because I’ve spent so much of the past seven or so years with headphones on, this of course being due to the popularity of the iPod. However, in recent days I have been bereft of said generic MP3 player due to Sibyl using it while she microscopes, it makes the process less monotonous – apparently – and cells are a lot more exciting when Smashing Pumpkins are on. I’ve noticed, since abandoning the iPod that I rely on it too much to entertain me while I walk. I still reach for my pockets when I pop out to get the milk, and have to remind myself to enjoy the pleasure of just walking. I did try reading and walking for a while, and that’s not terrible, as long as you look up every couple of moments, peripheral vision does wonders. But I find I am more able to engage with people I pass on the street when I’m not actively doing something. I like to smile when I see people. Most people don’t smile back, or avoid eye contact, but some people are great, they smile and even say hello. I know saying hello to each other is more common in the countryside, I remember remarking on that when I went to visit Tiger Tim in Yorkshire – everyone says hello to each other here (I also noticed the high frequency of dead animals on the road)!
It’s important to connect with people, we all have souls, we are all made in God’s image, and we are all unique, able to enrich each others’ lives. Something present in much of modern fiction at the moment is this disconnectedness. Simon Stephens writes characters who are constantly wanting to eat things, smoke things or watch things but struggle to connect. I was telling Pountney about a short story I’d read by an author he’d recommended, Raymond Carver. The story of his I read was called Kindling and itspeaks of a man who’s lodging with a married couple, he is constantly refusing their offers of meals and conversation and his diary entries reveal what this does to him, he constantly finds himself writing the words nothing and empty. One afternoon, he helps the husband chop some wood, and that evening his diary writing is fluid and full, hopeful. The story hints at a sad ending, because the lodger leaves the next morning. Homework: acknowledge the existence of your fellow man!