You’ve hiked for 10 hours. It’s hot, you’re dripping with sweat, and you taste salt on your lips. It isn’t fun any longer. Actually, it hasn’t been for a while. Your backpack is grinding into the base of your neck, there are blisters on your feet, and your water is tepid and running low. It doesn’t matter, though. There are five miles left, and no one’s carrying you home.
Upon finally reaching the base of the mountain, you release a small whimper of relief. At a small creek, you wash off your boots and trade them for a (suddenly very light seeming) pair of runners. Limping your way to the truck, you barrel in with your friends. It’s strange to simultaneously feel both so weary and alive. It was an exhausting day, but you saw breathtaking country, connected with great friends, and now have a fine reason to kick back.
After 45 minutes in transit, you roll up to a pub. A couple of pitchers are ordered, and that first sip of beer is mahtava (Finnish for magnificent, but somehow more so). The long wait for nourishment comes to an end as a cavalcade of plates heaping with burgers and fries arrive. You devour everything in sight, and are taken aback by how good that burger tasted… perhaps better than any before it.
Contrast is to thank for this. It expands the available spectrum of emotion and experience, adding fidelity to our lives. Sadly, it’s under attack.
Our modern society provides easy, and persistent, access to delightful indulgences, but this is contradictory to how indulgence works. While you can hole up in a pub and eat a burger every day, it just won’t taste as good as it did when you were really tired and hungry.
In order to feel anything, we have to seek out—and even create our own—contrast. Doing so isn’t difficult, but it does require one to make certain choices. It’s also anathema to a population that insists upon being comfortable at all times.
Want to gain contrast? Perhaps take a month off, from television. The first few days will be an immense drag; you won’t know what to do with your evenings. Should you stick with it, you’ll find yourself thinking about it less each day. By the end of your “telexile,” you’ll turn that machine on more consciously. Odds are, you’ll mark the occasion with a really good program/film, a little popcorn, and a nice glass of wine. (A dramatically different experience from zoning out daily to a stream of reality TV.)
Better than that, though, you might find that the things you do during your down-time also become enjoyable. Maybe you’ll now have the time to catch up on some reading, fix that broken kitchen faucet, get a little extra sleep, or treat the Kama Sutra like an instruction manual for the month’s evening pursuits.
In order to fully experience things, you need contrast.