February 10, 2017

The Fresh Eyes of Exile

I’ve written of the need to have ‘Fresh Eyes’ in the pursuit of any creative endeavor here in the past. I came across this essay by Costica Bradatan which beautifully validates, and expands on this idea. It speaks to the upside of exile—typically a term carrying a negative connotation—banishment from all we hold dear, from our sense of well-being and identity which are so much a function of the place we call ‘home’. And yet, with regard to any sort of life change—renewal, refreshment, reinvention, rejuvenation—a certain amount of self-imposed ‘exile’ is essential for new perspectives.

©Elizabeth Watt

“For when your old world goes down it also takes with it all your assumptions, commonplaces, prejudices and preconceived ideas. To live is to envelope yourself in an increasingly thicker veil of familiarity that blinds you to what’s under your nose. The more comfortable you feel in the world, the blunter the instruments with which you approach it. Because everything has become so evident, you’ve stopped seeing anything. Exile gives you a chance to break free. All that heavy luggage of old truths, which seemed so only because they were so familiar, is to be left behind.

The redeeming thing about exile is that when your “old world” has vanished you are suddenly given the chance to experience another. At the very moment when you lose everything, you gain something else: new eyes. Indeed, what you eventually get is not just a “new world,” but something philosophically more consequential: the insight that the world does not simply exist, but it is something you can dismantle and piece together again, something you can play with, construct, reconstruct and deconstruct. As an exile you learn that the world is a story that can be told in many different ways. Certainly you can find that in books, but there is no deeper knowledge than the one that comes mixed with blood and tears, the knowledge that comes from uprooting.”

©Elizabeth Watt

So the challenge (if you choose to accept it) is how to create that sense of exile—that eye-opening fresh view of things—without sacrificing too much. As Anais Nin famously quoted “Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage.” On my fridge 🙂 Not always easy, but we are infinitely richer for it.

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Bridget

Great observation! It is amazing how much of what we do and the way we react to stimuli is the function of our environment.

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