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On being a contemplator

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What do you see when you look out your window? In this month's blog, Berta celebrates the arts of contemplation and people-watching.

I have recently moved to a new apartment, and now my desk is in front of a big window. I get to look outside while I study, eat, read, and drink my coffee. In the mornings, come rain or shine, a family sets up their stand where they sell fresh tulips and roses. Whenever friends come over to my place, I tell them that I spend an obscene amount of time looking out my window, into the streets where I can be a mere contemplator. I had never experienced this specific sensation, as I had never lived in an apartment that wasn’t on the ground floor, so looking out from a vertical perspective was never an option. Growing up in a small town in the Spanish countryside, I got to look up at tall mountains and large fields where the cows were grazing, but never down at the streets of a rather hectic town. While there is an overwhelming aspect to living in a city at this point in my life, I never feel metaphysically lonely because I am surrounded by thousands of others.

When I was younger and had the occasional irrational fear, my father would tell me to close my eyes and picture the immensity of the universe, the minute size of the Earth, and my own place in all that. He told me this so that I would realize that, no matter the weight I gave to my concerns, I was just a tiny speck in an enormous agglomeration of matter. This advice always succeeded in bringing me peace: I wholeheartedly believe that remembering the inevitable interconnectedness of all of us makes one less fearful and anxious. This reflection might seem expendable—especially because it was mainly triggered by me looking out a window. However, I believe that this might be helpful to many of us, to a certain extent. In a time of endless distraction and constant stimulation, the mere act of not looking away has become revolutionary.

I have been making a conscious effort to relish in the discomfort of not being distracted by my phone at all times, but rather training my brain to enjoy silence and peace again. Contemplation is something that used to be present in our lives, but now we get to evade these moments. This is a shame, as I believe there is something that connects us to other humans by simply looking, smiling, and acknowledging each other as fellow wanderers.

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