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].
I have been visiting the Airbus site at Filton near Bristol since the mid-1990s. It is where the wings for new designs of aircraft are developed and tested. My involvement has been in the developing of techniques for measuring strain in aircraft structures during static and fatigue tests. At the moment, we are working on methods to integrate fields of measurements with computational predictions of stress and strain [see ‘Jigsaw puzzling without a picture‘ on October 27th, 2021]. I frequently travel by train to Bristol Parkway Station and walk past the church in the photograph without even noticing it despite it being next to the station. To be fair, the view of it from the station entrance is obscured by a billboard. However, last week as I walked back to the station with a half-hour to spare, I noticed a gate leading into a churchyard. I slipped through the gate thinking that perhaps there might be an interesting old church to explore but it was locked and I had to be satisfied with a stroll around the churchyard. I was slightly shocked to realise the church, and the village green beyond it, had been hidden in full view for more than thirty years of walking within a few tens of metres of it perhaps once a month. I had always been too focussed on the research that I was heading to Airbus to discuss, or too tired at the end of a day, to notice the things around me. Our senses flood our brains with information most of which is ignored by our conscious minds that are busy time traveling through past memories or looking into the future [see ‘Time travel and writing history‘ on March 23rd, 2022]. However, there is pleasure to be gained by dwelling in the present and exploring the sensory experience flooding into our brains. As Amy Liptrot commented in her book ‘The Outrun‘, “the more I take the time to look at things, the more rewards and complexity I find”.
Enuma Okoro, The Pleasure Principle, FT Weekend, 19 February/20 February 2022.
Mia Levitan, Descent into digital distraction, FT Weekend, 5 March/6 March 2022.
The news brings us a daily diet of people’s lives lost or wrecked by events beyond their control, tempered with accounts of the apparently glamorous life-styles of the rich and famous, and interspersed with advertisements that lure us towards the pursuit of success and happiness. However, the advertisements are selling products that make others rich and, on their own, are unlikely to make us happy. Instead, we need to learn ‘to love the daily current of existence which flows on evenly’, to quote Natalia Ginzburg. Or as Pope Francis, has said about achieving happiness: ‘Slow down. Take time off. Live and let live. Don’t proselytise. Work for peace. Work at a job that offers basic human dignity. Don’t hold on to negative feelings. Move calmly through life. Enjoy art, books and playfulness.’