“Inner space and outer space are similar, aren’t they really? You’re never going to get to the edge of the universe in a spaceship. You might as well try going on a bus. You can only go there in your head.” This is a quote from David Hockney in ‘Spring Cannot Be Cancelled‘ by David Hockney and Martin Gayford. It’s a beautiful book. Full of thought-provoking insights and recent artwork by Hockney painted in Normandy mainly during the pandemic. I read it last month while in the Yorkshire Dales [see ‘Walking the hills‘ on April 13th 2022]. Hockney writes about his need to paint. He finds it utterly absorbing and endlessly sustaining. Gayford compares this need and experience to the work of American psychologist, Mihaly Csiksczentmihalyi [see ‘Slow-motion multi-tasking leads to productive research‘ on September 19, 2018] who wrote about concentration so intense that there is no spare capacity to think about anything else, your self-consciousness disappears and you lose your sense of time leading to a deep sense of happiness and well-being. I cannot paint but I can achieve something approaching a similiar state when I am writing.
A regular reader of this blog commented last week on the enjoyment she gained during the pandemic from their daily walk around a local lake which reminded me about a recent experience on one of our regular weekend hikes around Moel Famau, which have been real rather than virtual for some months now [see ‘Virtual ascent of Moel Famau‘ on April 8th, 2020]. It was an unseasonally warm day and there was a strong scent from the daffodils in the broad verge next to the farm track that we were walking down. The impact of the scent on my sense of well-being was almost like a form of synaesthesia [see ‘Engineering synaesthesia‘ on September 21st, 2016]. I am on vacation this week, hoping to slow down [see ‘Slow down, breathe your own air‘ on December 23rd 2015], climb some hills and feed my consciousness some different sensory experiences [see ‘Feed your consciousness with sensory experiences‘ on May 22nd 2019].
The French novelist Michel Houellebecq has written of the power of literature to separate yourself from your existence. It is something that I experience when reading an absorbing novel or occasionally when reading an outstanding scientific paper on a subject that interests me. However, it happens more often when I am writing and perhaps is a reason why I write regularly and frequently. Houellebecq has also written that ‘only literature can give you the sensation of contact with another human mind’ [in Submission, 2015]. Is it only literature that can produce this sensation? Or, does it occur when you listen to an in-depth interview or even when you read posts regularly from a blogger? Perhaps after 500 posts [see ‘500th post‘ on February 2nd, 2022] you have a sensation of contact with some part of my mind.
Traditionally in Easter week, I go to the Lake District for a week of hill-walking with my family and a digital detox [see ‘Eternal non-existence‘ on April 24th, 2019 and ‘Gone walking‘ on April 19th, 2017]. For the second year in succession, we have had to cancel our trip due to the national restrictions on movement during the pandemic [see ‘Walking and reading during a staycation‘ on April 15th, 2020]. I am still attempting a digital detox but the walking is restricted to a daily circuit of our local park. While Sefton Park is not on the scale of Central Park in New York or Regent’s Park in London, it is sufficiently large that a walk to it, round its perimeter and home again takes us about two hours. It might not be as strenuous as climbing Stickle Pike but it is better than repeatedly climbing the stairs which was the limit of our exercise last year [see ‘Virtual ascent of Moel Famau‘ on April 8th, 2020]. We might not be allowed to leave our locality but we can switch off all of our devices, do some off-line reading (see ‘Reading offline‘ on March 19th, 2014), slow down, breathe our own air (see ‘Slow down, breathe your own air‘ on December 23rd, 2015) and enjoy the daffodils.