How To Not Become Jaded

Pharos: The Lighthouse column explores the theme of discovery

© Gina Müller/carolineseidler.com

Our wine, food and life-loving columnist and thinker writes under a pseudonym - hence the title of this column. Pharos: The Lighthouse.

Pharos: The Lighthouse column explores the theme of discovery

© Gina Müller/carolineseidler.com

One of the most benevolent aspects of the human mind is how it treats our passage through time. For the young person, everything is new and exciting. Differences are to be celebrated and savoured, a reflection of the glorious multiformity of the world. The offbeat and unusual merit particular attention, the novel the most. Life moves simultaneously very fast and very slow.

A bit later down the line, flexibility and exploration start to give way to the comfort of the familiar. Patterns begin to emerge: we think we know what we like and what we don’t. The justification for this is based both on experience and on time. There is little excitement in running towards dead ends anymore, and we couldn’t afford it even if we wanted to. Individual days might seem like weeks, but entire years pass in what feels like a few hours. Things need to count.

There is something to be said about this. Exchanging width for depth is not just an exercise in leaving young adulthood behind. There is a beauty in the study of small differences, a cosiness in following the same thing through time. But this progressive settlement of taste comes with a catch. Eventually we reach a point where we fail to see any differences at all. There is nothing new under the sun. People were, are, and will always be the same, and so will be the things they create. It was ever thus and if reincarnation exists, it will be purely an exercise in repetition. In its own merciful way, our mind is gently telling us that, when it will be time to go, there will have been nothing left to gain by staying.

Breaking the bad habit

This is all fine when it works the way it is meant to. But it is so easy for it not to. Maybe our brains have not caught up with our newly increased life spans. Maybe the cosiness of patterns is a bit like salt and fat, we are wired to crave them because they used to be scarce, and we need to try actively to break the habit. It is easy to stay put and miss the world going by. There is a reason that when we say someone is old before their time, it is rarely in admiration. This is why the older I get, the more I appreciate the hobbies I have. During the lockdowns, food was not only a source of comfort but also of discovery, a connection to the outside world. All the recipes I wanted to attempt, all the combinations I wanted to try…if someone had told me two years ago that I would spend months and months staying in, I would have thought that I would finish everything three times over. What I found instead, is that I barely scratched the surface. Like a fractal, every dish opened another set of possibilities, every technique brought more questions than it answered. People have different ways of making every day feel like a new day. I found mine in filleting fish and puréeing vegetables

Sense of wonder

I am told there are people, many people, that find one wine they like and then stick to it, again and again and again. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this of course; I just think they don’t really like wine that much. Because liking wine is all about trying new things. Yes, depth is important and we all have favourites. There is pleasure to be had in following the same wine through vintages. But the essence of wine connoisseurship is not unidimensional. It is not only travelling through time, but through space too. Discovery is vital, even necessary – and not only in wine.

For me, nothing compares to the sense of wonder of exploring a new city. I like towns, villages, islands, I can do mountains and forests at a pinch. But the excitement of a new, big city is unparalleled. Especially that one moment at the start. I have arrived at the hotel, I have arranged my stuff, I have washed the trip off me. I have comfortable shoes and a not too large backpack. I am ready to discover. I might live to be a hundred years old, I might not; as long as I still get that thrill from that moment, I will know it’s not yet time to go.

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