Making Room for Surprise

July 31, 2021 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

We must become hospitable to interruptions… Purposefulness requires paying attention, and paying attention means—almost by definition—that we make room for surprise… Our true purpose is fashioned in the crucible of interruptions.” Physicist Mark Buchanan (from Bill Britton, p 39)

For me, the three most detestable words heard at an upscale restaurant: “How is everything?” Especially when asked by a manager… frequently. Maybe if asked once perhaps the question is kind and even acceptable. But when I am queried two, three or more times I become irritable.

Don’t they understand my experience is not about them? If I don’t like something or desire service, I’ll let them know. From me, no news is good news.

Getting Lost in My Mind

I so enjoy my rare moments of laser-beam focus. A movie, a book, a conversation, the beach, or a museum. I love getting lost in the wonder of an experience. In fact, I have been known to be so deep in thought that I have inadvertently stumbled into a four-foot-tall file cabinet. I never even saw it right in front of me.

From those words above I am sure you can guess… I loathe interruptions. My inner life is full and pleasurable. I have little need for unexpected and undesirable stimuli.

The Crucible of Interruptions

And yet, unexpected stimuli (read: interruptions) are the predominate occurrence in everyday life. In truth, each day we just might experience more interruptions than we do intentional incidences. Physicist Mark Buchanan suggests that we must “become more hospitable to interruptions” because our lives are fashioned in the crucible of interruptions.

The first step to appreciating the value of interruptions can be discovered by actively paying attention to every moment with curiosity and anticipation of the uncalculated surprise found in the delightful “crucible of interruptions.”

It is easy to completely miss wonderful surprises because we are so caught up in our own needs and desires and “important activities.” These often turn out to be the obstacles to the wonders and surprises life freely offers to us if we are only paying attention.

Amsterdam… Ooh!

Just a few years ago I visited Amsterdam—a city of incessant surprise. My journey through the city was full of interruptions to my intended destinations and objectives. I was constantly lost; I couldn’t understand street names because Danish words contain so many consonants without intermediate vowels; it seemed as if I was routinely distracted by a building or an outdoor toilet in which outsiders could see your head from shoulders up and feet from knees down; and then “pot bars” posting signs outside with the warning “no smoking allowed.” Huh?

When Interruption Leads to Surprise

Think of what I would have missed if I were not outside my comfort zone and I failed to simply pay attention. Paying attention and the acceptance of interruptions allowed me to Make Room for Surprise!

Check it out for yourself.

While Life Seems a Bit Stale

Maybe It’s Time for an Interruption

Photo courtesy of tylim at istockphoto

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