“What do you seek in life?,” was the question.

“Texture,” said Clarissa, without hesitation, in her deep throated silken British voice as she sunned herself, settled on the lawn chair by the pool. She had studied philosophy at Cambridge. Her title of nobility was authentic. Lady Clarissa. She was 32 years old. Beautiful and intelligent – both. I was awed by that exquisite response.

Consider all the ways to express this idea: ‘devoting your life to exploring the sense experience of being alive’ – the content of all of those 11 words.  There is surely no better phrase for it than, ‘seeking texture’.

In disclosing what she sought in life, she didn’t say

    “to find a husband” or
    “to be a good Christian” or
    “to become rich and famous” or even
    ‘to make the world a better place.”

She sought not to do but, rather, to experience. She sought texture.

To embrace life’s texture is to appreciate the experiences

of love – and of hate
of heat – and of cold
of health – and of illness
of having plenty and being in want
for some, even to kill and be killed.

In a single word – texture – she captured a whole philosophy of living: that the fabric of life – its essence – is a series of experiences. Lord Byron expressed the same idea, though less poetically, when he wrote, “The great object of life is sensation – to feel that we exist, even though in pain.”

There are textures in the experiences of the mind as well as in physical experiences. The texture – the quality of these experiences – is available whether you note them or not. To embrace them – to seek them – is to appreciate your experiences. It is to celebrate living. To perceive life as texture strikes me as the soul of enlightenment.

Seeking texture is not for those whose lives are consumed with mere survival. The destitute abandonned mother of three doesn’t think about the texture of her misery. It is a philosophy that only the privileged could espouse. People upon whom life has already bestowed many blessings; wealth, good health, good looks. Such was Lord Byron – and the Lady Clarissa. It’s a selfish philosophy, focussed entirely on oneself.

It has this element – focus on self – in common with spiritual self-improvement notions. To improve oneself – say, to attain some goal; enlightenment, serenity, success … – is done for oneself. It is not selfless.

But seeking texture differs from self-improvement in an essential and very basic way: Seeking texture expresses the meaninglessness of any life goal at all! It says: You find yourself alive. Take note of it. Relish the experience. Devotion to a goal is pointless as it is pointless to worry about being selfish.

I wonder whether living by this philosophy – of devotion to experience – by its nature, doesn’t preclude experiences. Like the experience of ‘caring’.





One response to “Texture”

  1. “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear
    ourselves that if the Empire and its Commonwealth last for
    a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
    – Winston Churchill, 1940

    Try substituting another word for “finest”. Nothing serves as well.

    The right words do matter. “Seeking texture” is an example.