The most common word used when describing such experiences is ‘connection’ – we briefly shift beyond our separate self-absorbed egos, and feel deeply connected to other beings, or to all things. Some interpret these moments as an encounter with the divine, but not all do. The philosopher Bertrand Russell, for example, also had a ‘mystic moment’ when he suddenly felt filled with love for people on a London street.
We tend to view our surroundings only as far as they are relevant to ourselves and our time, but each space has so much more meaning to it than the tiny sliver each of us know. My apartment, which to me has always seemed mine, has spent most of its life housing people I don’t know, each of whom had their own familiar, personal feelings towards this space. The place where I drink my coffee, here in 2015, is also the site of untold breakups, parties, conversations, and arguments, possibly crimes, acts of betrayal or acts of redemption. People probably conceived children in here.
In every sense, it is a turning point—a turning of your mind’s awareness from a focus on your inner self to a focus on the outer world. Physicians and nurses know that a patient’s sudden interest in external things is the first sign that healing has begun. But do our surroundings, in turn, have an effect on us? Can the spaces around us help us to heal?
The philosopher and boredom theorist Blaise Pascal promoted this type of exploration as early as the 1600s: "All of humanity's problem stems from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." (p. 37)
ELEMENT: The PLACE where the things we love to do and the things we are good at COME TOGETHER.
- Creating this place
- Embracing it
What is the ELEMENT?
A. The meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion.
B. Connecting with something fundamental to our sense of identity, purpose and well-being.
C. We are not limited to ONE element
D. Conditions: Attitude and Opportunity.
Acclaimed Samoan writer Albert Wendt has stated that the vā represents a space in which identity can be mapped: “We each have preferred maps, learned maps—what we believe our cultures, our nations, ourselves were and are. Our maps may be our neighbour’s fictions, we read one another through what we believe, through the mirrors of who and what we are. Those maps and fictions are all in the spiral which composes the story of us in the ever-moving present, in the vā, the space between all things which defines and makes us a part of the unity that is all” (quoted in Va‘ai 1999, 46).
The Italian philosopher Vico had this theory that time moves more in a spiral than it does in a line. He believes that’s why we repeat ourselves, including our tragedies, and that if we are more faithful to this movement, we can move away from the epicenter through distance and time, but we have to confront it every time. I’ve been thinking about trauma—how it’s repetitive, and how we recreate it, and how memory is fashioned by creation. Every time we remember, we create new neurons, which is why memory is so unreliable. I thought, “Well if the Greek root for ‘poet’ is ‘creator,’ then to remember is to create, and, therefore, to remember is to be a poet.” I thought it was so neat. Everyone’s a poet, as long as they remember.
∆ Ocean Vuong, What’s your mood when you write?