Find real intimacy in details


When I was still a primary school student, my grandfather sent me to school everyday riding a bicycle. I sat on the backseat, usually had nothing to do but just looked at people on the streets during the whole half-hour trip. I saw the owner of the breakfast store chatting with my neighbors, a new book store was open near the corner, or pupils like me were holding the hands of their parents on the way to school. Somehow I never got bored passing through the same route nearly every day for nine years. There was always something new to look at, and something new I can think of.

I missed that old feeling of getting fully involved in the surroundings without any thought in mind, but just "be" there. It's a sense of intimacy that creates happiness and peace inside me. This intimacy cannot be generated easily nowadays with so many temptations, especially the smart phone. In some occasions, I try to intentionally leave my phone at home and go out without any digital device. I start to observe people around me when I am waiting for my meal to come. I start to observe other folks in the gym, learn their techniques and also look for some interesting interactions among people. In these occasions, I can truly feel the breathing of my heart and my mind.

This kind of feeling also arise when I was reading "crime and punishment", a novel from Fyodor Dostoevsky. It has been a long while since I last read literature. I instantly had a sense of fulfilment when I read his depiction on the street scene of Russia. The smell of the air, the products sold in the street store, the looking of the pedestrians... These details are just so lovely, and surpisingly, making me feel that I never truly see these in life. They are supposed to be just normal things that no one would think as special. It reminds me of how little attention I have been put on the surroundings of mine which are so beautiful.

On the contrary, dreams, ambitions or big concepts always make me feel more distant, overwhelmed, anxious and urgent. You can not touch them, see them, or smell them. They are too big to hold, too fluid to grasp and too broad to view. I am not saying it is bad to have big dreams or ambitions. They motivate us and give us the direction of life. But, at least for me, it is the detail that makes me truly happy.

I also hold similar opinion for research work. It is cool and important to formulate theories around big concepts and issues. Words such as "Economic growth", "Income equality", "Technology progress" etc. are powerful and weak at the same time. They are powerful because of the fundamental role they played and their innate broadness. They are also weak because of exactly the same reason. "Technology progress" does not mean anything if we don't provide it with any detail. It is only after we know how primitive human dometicated animals or how Thomas Edison invented light bulb, that the word "Technology progress" finally has substance. What behinds these big concepts are the bread for breakfast, the socks you wear, the separation of lovers, the reunion of families, the happiness, sorrow, tears and joy of every human. These "details" build true intimacy for myself to those big words, to research and the profession.

This notion of "detail" can be applied to all aspects of life. It can be career, relationships, leisure, or personal growth etc. You can find these lovely details in the sky you see today, in a squarriel on the street, in your beloved partner, your family and simply everything. This article is a reminder of myself that please, open your eyes, nose, ears, and your heart, to seek for the real intimacy from details...

© Zhiwei (Berry) Wang.RSS