Today I’m thinking about being extraordinary.
About what it means to want to push the limits of what we know, to simultaneously test and define human nature. I’m working on a brief that is challenging me to capture and describe that characteristic. And I’m finding it tricky. As is often the case when I’m stewing on an idea I head outside in search of inspiration.
Driving to the beach with Radio 4 gets me going. To celebrate Desert Island Disc’s 70th birthday, David Attenborough, ably guided by Sue Lawley, is telling his lifestory peppered with his stowaway musical choices.
As he talks about the life he’s led and the experiences he has had. I realise that people like David, extraordinary people, aren’t any different to the rest of us. They aren’t super human with unique feelings and emotions that stand them apart. Instead they are just concentrated versions of us, a condensed soup of the most instinctive elements that sit inside everyone. People like David are extraordinary because they don’t ignore or quash it, instead they constantly draw on and feed that most human of instincts – discovery.
To feel alive, to feel human, they need to constantly explore, grow, learn and nurture their inherent curiosity, as David puts it to be ‘endlessly exposed to the wonder of the world.’
He’s describing cracking open an ammonite in his back garden at the age of seven, seeing something that in its petrified state hadn’t ever had light on it before, and the sense of wonder that that stirred in him. But he could be talking about the feeling anybody has when they discover the new, the different, the inspiring.
Getting to the coast I have my own moment of discovery. I walk on frozen beach.
It’s so cold my fingers ache the moment I step out of the car and the ground slips from underneath me as I crunch to the water’s edge. Never before have I slid across ice covered ground where salty ocean sets and stays rather than falling away with the tide. The changing textures and sensations of pinchingly cold water, slippery sheets of ice and crystalised sand underfoot, mingle with my visible breath, my crisping eyelashes and the menacingly empty blue sky.
I have never been this cold before. That’s when I realise. We’re all exposed to wonder. Every day. You just have to be a special kind of person to see it. And to go looking.