Last Friday, I found myself enchanted, bewildered and bemused as I watched a menagerie of folk play Balkan-style music on a stage in front of 500 or so people, in a railway arch in SE1, London. The other 500 or more were milling around in corridors and other arches in the club. This Around the World event, which was ‘stopping off’ in a variety of countries from Africa to the USA, from France to Cyprus gathered over a thousand revellers to celebrate and enjoy a Friday night of fun and frolics.
My friends and I exchanged huge grins and laughed as we bopped about to the almost discordant rabble of folk before us. A grandmother in a tartan basque playing her clarinet; a voluptuous she-devil with big hair fronting the band and at least eight other people of assorted ages in different attire playing an assortment of instruments contributed to the gypsy-esque music and I thought to myself, how fantastic. The music was out of time, it looked as if they had only just gotten together and it was all rather chaotic. But d’you know what? That made it all the more charming and amusing. My friends had made some considerable effort to dress for the event – the stewardesses among them looked particularly gorgeous. And the sea of people before me, wearing life jackets, pilot uniforms, travel pillows and other global reference items made it all the more interesting to watch.
“It takes all sorts to make a world.” English proverb.
Taking a break on some old airplane seats positioned along the brick walls on one side of an arch, I sat and rested up (well, I did have a sore knee…oh to be 20 again) whilst watching the splendid and colourful crowd mince, shimmy, dance and meander by. And I thought how splendid it was that I had the opportunity to enjoy such variety and fun in my life. One minute, I’m a coach, another I’m working on some branding guidelines, the next I’m reading a charming story to my two year old and then on occasions, baby-sitting arrangements permitting, I get to come out with some good friends and enjoy a party. I think what made this one particularly engaging was that the music was varied, there were live performances, people dressed in costume and the venue was a new one to me. Yes, no two-ways about it, I find it refreshing and interesting to experience variety: the pleasure of meeting people I haven’t encountered before; the joy of hearing new music; the fresh impression of a novel experience that can create new context in my thinking. All these contribute to who I am.
“The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.” William Somerset Maugham
I touched upon this a little in my last blog entry - the trouble with keeping things just the same, or only doing the same kinds of activities, is that our world just becomes a little too small. Our horizons shrink, our imaginations are stifled, and our expectations, hopes and desires become more limited.
Shakin’ it up a bit, sprinkling a little change and variety into your everyday or weekly routine can help you grow. Subjecting your senses to new smells, sounds, sights, tastes and physical experiences will give you a more holistic, whole-brain perspective.
Try brushing your teeth with the other hand than the one you usually use
Take an alternative route to workHave a week of brand new dishes you’ve not cooked before, or try some food you’ve never tasted before
Read a book genre you’ve not experienced before
Wear something you would normally not consider wearing
Have a go at a sport or new activity you’ve never tried
Remove yourself from technology and gadgets for a week and see what comes up for you; what do you do instead?
Re-arrange the furniture in your home
These are just a few suggestions but you get the idea. Look at your life and see where you might be stagnating. Where there is no movement, create some. Where there is too much sameness, mix it up a bit and swap things round. It really does enhance life and you’ll be richer for the experiences.
You never know, I might find myself on a stage when I’m 80 DJing to a huge crowd of revellers, wearing some outrageous outfit just to spice up life in my retirement…
“Variety is the soul of pleasure.” Aphra Behn