You are awake. When you interact with a stranger you’re not in your own head, you’re not on autopilot from here to there. You are present in the moment. And to be present is to feel alive.*
Things are coming alive around you all the time. There is a life pouring into the world, and it pours from an inexhaustible source.**
We do not only want to breathe; we want to breathe deeply.
We want to know we’re awake and that life is something not only acting upon us but being acted upon by us.
For this we need stranger things – the new, the different, the unfamiliar, some incompetence – for this to be.
When Walt Whitman writes about immortality it feels like being fully awake:
‘I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it,
And all preparation for it … and identity is for it … and life and death are for it.’^
It is here, too, in the words of Peter Altenberg:
“Little things in life supplant the “great events.”^^
How else might we see and value the little things save that we are fully awake?
Whatever life has been on autopilot, we are invited to live otherwise.
(*From Kio Stark’s When Strangers Meet.)
(**Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^^Peter Altenberg in the Paris Review: In Praise of the Flaneur.)