Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Surprise me!

I don't remember, is your television one of the multi-talented, modern variety capable of offering you past programmes at any time you choose?
I was talking to a friend the other day and she was encouraging me to dispose of my ancient set in favour of a similar model.  It wouldn't cost much, she assured me, and look what I'd gain?
All those past programmes that I'd managed to miss, each one would be available at the touch of a button!

It was good advice, and there was a lot in what she said.
But is it so very stupid to become attached to old, inanimate objects?
I'm deeply attached to my thirteen-year-old car, which is unfailingly reliable.  I have a similar affection for my equally ancient television.  If a piece of equipment has never failed you it seems disloyal, not to say ungrateful, to scrap it for an up-dated version.

However, there's another reason why I'm reluctant to take my friend's advice and put all those past programmes at my disposal . . . it's just a bit harder to explain.

Let me start by admitting something.
On my shelf sits a pile of CDs.  There are CDs featuring my favourite composers and my favourite artistes.  CDs of the orchestras, conductors and soloists whom I most enjoy.
Do I listen to them?  Yes . . . but nothing like as frequently as they deserve.  The radio, on the other hand, is on constantly.  Not only that, should the radio offer me, quite unexpectedly, one of those same CDs, I'm illogically overjoyed!
I stop what I'm doing . . .  turn up the volume . . . and revel in this unexpected treat!

Is it just me, or are we a contrary species?  Whatever the reason, it's the unexpected, uncontrollable delights that we seem to value.

Sunsets are a perfect example.
Surely one of the joys of a glorious sunset is the very fact that it's unexpected?  It wasn't anticipated, can't be influenced or prolonged, and can never be reproduced to order.
If we could 'record' our favourite sunset and replay it across the western sky whenever we felt the urge, would it be the same?  I doubt it.  Over time, we would cease to notice the breath-taking colours, far less pause to admire them.

Do you know what I missed most when I was at school in Switzerland?  It was the vagaries of the British weather.

"What a glorious day!" I would say enthusiastically to Swiss friends when I first arrived.
They'd look at me in surprise, "But it's always like this here," they'd say, without a glance at the brilliant sunshine reflecting off the snow.
They were right, I was over-reacting.  It was always like that there.  But how sad if the British obsession with the weather were to be replaced by a matter-of-face acceptance of natural beauty.

So, do you understand why I'm sticking with my old television . . . why my CDs are collecting dust on the shelves?  It's the childlike desire to be surprised by pleasure . . . and, I wonder, is it so very foolish?