On Routine and Oblivion

Just a month into living in Germany, I calculated that it would take me 8 minutes to get from my front door to the entrance of ZHG, the building where I have most of my lectures. In total, I need a mere 11 minutes from the time I leave my house to the time I settle down for any of my lectures in ZHG. I pass by a lot of things on this 2.3km stretch but with the pressures of the day, I barely notice anything. Well, until recently. Since 3 weeks ago, I have had to cut down on certain physical activities. As a result, I normally don’t bike as fast as I used to. So the journey that would usually take me 8 minutes is now taking about 12. As life has somewhat slowed down, I have begun noticing the beauty that lies on my 2300m journey to my lecture hall.

Just as I leave home, there is a residence for old(er) people on my left. When the sun is out, there is usually one or two old people on the balcony. I have noticed that if I look up, they’ll sometimes smile at me as though they’re wishing me well for the day ahead. About 150m from this residence is a plain field. People come here to take in the sun or simply have a small party. As I have slowed down during my bike rides, I have seen pure joy as people have been celebrated on that green grass. Not more than 50m from here is a student residence. For some reason, there’s also a few toddlers at/around this place. Moving slowly, I have seen some toddlers learn to cycle and a parent’s proud face their child rides 10 metres unaided. Simply precious.

Halfway through my journey, there are some flowers that have sprung up. They are beautiful. As I enter the university compound, there’s a beautiful statue that I only got to see last week despite cycling past it numerous times. Then comes the unique breeze as I go down the slope leading to the foot of ZHG. There’s always people on this path. People from everywhere. Slowing down here and moving at the same speed as one walking has made me realise how fortunate I am to be brushing shoulders with people from all over the world.

But why did I notice all this before? Maybe it’s because routine and oblivion are almost inseparable. Once we settle down to a routine and repeat it several times, the sparks of life, the ‘aha moments’ and the beauty found in the simplest of things all but diminish. We simply carry on with our lives. If we are not careful, everything becomes ordinary. What is ordinary though? Getting out of bed? Sitting up in a chair? Eating? The 8-minute cycle to class? Going on a hike? Going for groceries maybe?

If there is something the last 3 weeks has reminded me of, as a result of slowing down, it is that nothing is ordinary. Although I would have loved for this lesson to come in a different way, the current circumstances have reminded me that even that bike ride I take to my lecture is not in my power. As short and easy as it may seem, I cannot do it on my own. So am thankful for each time I make that journey and sit in a lecture without any complaint. I am grateful for each time I go on a hike and still sleep peacefully at night. And for each time I go to the grocery store and come back feeling the same way I left.

May it never be that we get used to our routines so much so that our heads become completely buried in oblivion. May we slow down, appreciate what is around us and be grateful for everything we’re able to do.

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