I’ve read T.S Eliot’s The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock a few hundred times. Each time I read it I find something new. Perhaps that’s because I’m so distractible that I miss so much.
You know the scene – you start reading and before you know it your eyes are scanning the sentences but you’re wondering how belly-button fluff actually gets there. God knows it’s one of life’s extravagant mysteries.
Or is it because in Eliot’s poem there’s so much to be taken in? Maybe each mood of mine uncovers a different meaning? Or is it a mixture of all of these?
It reminds me that you don’t always need something new to find the best. Sometimes something repeated can be even more beautiful. An old recipe is almost always better in my kitchen (and stomach) than the new.
We long for holidays, deserted white-sand beaches and pina-coladas; or dancing to tribal beats in deserted quarries on a cocktail of substances at the weekends; or new films, books and games. We love the new, the latest, the up-to-date, the shiniest.
But Prufrock is a reminder that I have everything I need. If one looks more closely, you can always find more. It is possible never to be bored, even with the most mundane of surroundings. Great things can come from ordinary places. A few that spring to mind:
- Einstein came up with perhaps the most important theories of all time whilst working as a patent clerk.
- A Vipassana course can result in the most remarkable discoveries with zero outside stimulus.
- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the story of a man paralyzed who is able to recount wonderful pieces of his life.
- Kant’s daily schedule, which enabled him to have extraordinary thoughts in an ordinary life. “It is often held that Kant lived a very strict and predictable life, leading to the oft-repeated story that neighbors would set their clocks by his daily walks” – Wikipedia reference.
- Bill Bryson writes hilariously about things that most of us would find annoying, reminding us that perspective is everything.
- Darwin made his biggest discoveries whilst living in his house in England, rather than on his travels.
- J.K Rowling created a whole new magical world while sitting in a back street cafe in Edinburgh.
“Altogether it will be found that a quiet life is characteristic of great men” says Bertrand Russell, and also from the same book The Conquest of Happiness, “Think of the different things that may be noticed in the course of a country walk. One man in the geology, yet another in the agriculture, and so on. Any one of these things is interesting if it interests you, and, other things being equal, then man who is interested in any one of them is better adapted to the world than the man who is not interested.”
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”
— T. S. Eliot (Four Quartets)