People sometimes go on about how our senses become jaded through habituation. When we should be walking round with our jaws dropping open with astonishment at the beauty and wonder of the world, instead we take it all for granted and just pass by with barely a first look, let alone a second.
For a long time I had a lot of sympathy with this viewpoint and even tried to jack myself up into a state of wonderment at the complexity and beauty of the world. It would always last about two minutes until I forgot that I was supposed to be finding things amazing.
Of course, when you think about it, habituation is inevitable. Yes, we should be thankful that we have all mod cons and don’t live either in the dark ages or in Waziristan, but how can you go on counting your blessings when you have never really known anything else other than the good life?
And even if you have known something else, it is the devil’s own job to try to keep your good fortune constantly at the front of your mind. Only by self-consciously putting on a fresh pair of eyes and ears every morning can you stem the stultifying effect of getting used to things.
If we never became habituated to things then we would all be walking round in a constant state of surprise and bewilderment. I can imagine a conversation between a person trying hard not to become habituated, let’s call him Mr. Wow!, and his sane friend:
Mr. W!: Wow, look at that beautiful garden!
SF: Yeah, I know. We saw it yesterday, and the day before that, remember?
Mr. W!: Yes, I know but it’s still amazing, isn’t it?
SF: Well, I suppose so. It’s just that after seeing it every day for the past month it somehow no longer has the same effect on me as it used to. Or as it appears to still have on you. Are you sure you’re not, you know, trying a little bit too hard?
Mr. W!: I don’t know what you mean.
SF: Really? Are you sure?
Like everyone else I enjoy doing things with people who are enthusiastic. Even so, I sometimes wonder if some people say things are ‘amazing’ but don’t really mean it. They seem to be describing how they would like to be seen rather than what they are feeling. They are in effect saying that if they say ‘Wow!’ a lot, then they can’t possibly be self-obsessed, right?