Time to stare off into space and think deep thoughts as the kettle meets the heat on the stovetop and the water soaks that heat up. Soon will come the boil, but meanwhile, I indulge in introspections.

That childhood habit of letting my eyes wonder round and round a wallpaper pattern has persisted to adulthood, causing burnt toast and oversteeped tea! This was the wallpaper in a previous house we owned. (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

That childhood habit of letting my eyes wonder round and round a wallpaper pattern has persisted to adulthood, causing burnt toast and oversteeped tea! This was the wallpaper in a previous house we owned. (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

As a kid, I used to get quite distracted by wallpaper patterns. Whenever there was a time when I had to wait for something to finish — the bread to toast, for example, something that can seem like an eternity and then suddenly the toast is burnt with acrid smoke coming out of the toaster and mom running into the kitchen yelling “What’s on fire?” — I would stare at the pattern in the wallpaper and follow it around and around until I got quite dizzy, which might be why the toast got burnt. Anyway, I don’t have wallpaper in my current house, so there are no dizzying patterns to distract me. So instead I started thinking about a thing philosophers call “a sense of life.”

Now, we are said to have five senses: taste, smell, hearing, touch, and sight. So, what is this sixth sense — this sense of life?

One philosopher describes it as: “A sense of life is a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence. It sets the nature of a man’s emotional responses and the essence of his character.” Uh…what?

Simply put, it’s your general approach to life. Are you positive or negative? If positive, you will tend to view things in a more positive manner. If negative, well even the littlest upset will appear humongous. Oversteeping the tea, for example, would get very different reactions, such as these:

Positive:

  • “Oh, goody, an opportunity to try something new — a gyokuro steeped for 15 minutes.”
  • “Wonderful! I’ll save this strong steeping of Assam for the gravy for dinner. It will only take a few minutes to steep another potful. I’ll set the timer this time.”
  • “Mmmmm…I always wondered what Snow Dragon would taste like when steeped in boiling water…hm…well, gee, maybe I can water the geranium with it.”

Negative:

  • “Dang! I spoiled the gyokuro. Now my whole day is ruined. I’ll never steep gyokuro ever, ever, ever again…and it’s all the tea vendor’s fault.”
  • “Oh my gosh…the Assam is so bitter…I have to rinse my mouth out right now…I think my tastebuds are ruined for life!”
  • “Bleh! ‘Iron Goddess’ is certainly appropriate. This stuff tastes like someone steeped a piece of iron. That does it…I’m switching to coffee.”

Well, you get the idea, I suppose. Mix-ups and mistakes happen. We all get distracted and burn the toast or oversteep the tea. Do we regard it as a tragedy or just one of those things? Which you do can determine what your sense of life is.

Gotta go — the toaster is smoking like Mt. Vesuvius about the blow and I think my tea has turned to something akin to brake fluid. Oh, well, that’s life!

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