An update from ESA-sponsored medical researcher Adrianos Golemis without pictures.
Time: L+308 (September 2013) Temperature: -59 degrees C
Week: 45 Sunlight: 12 hours
“He who has everything values nothing – and he who has nothing values everything”.
Perhaps surprisingly, this quote does not come from a grand historical study or religious text, but from Frank Herbert’s saga, Dune. It is a saying of the desert people who are deprived of many commodities in their toil for survival, so learn to appreciate every drop of bliss in their life. While it is an exaggeration to imply that we lack as many luxuries in Antarctica as the desert people do on the fictional planet of Arrakis, there is some measure of comparison between their harsh life and the lack of stimulation at Concordia Station. Like the desert people, we are slowly learning how to value the tiny spices of life that constitute our everyday routine.
After ten months in Concordia, my imagination seems to have been enhanced. When friends or family describe their daily life on the phone, my mind gives birth to lush images and paints an image of an ordinary rainy street in the most extravagant of colours for example. As it was summer in Europe, every time I called my brother when he was on a sunny Greek beach, a cataclysm of feelings burst inside my brain.
Just by hearing a simple statement such as “Hi, how are you? Me, I’m walking to work and it’s cloudy”, our intellect recreates the minutiae of the site, drawing from past memories and filling in the gaps with imagination, in an almost artistic way. Many times I was taken aback by the details my mind renders to depict background images when I hear someone speak of the sea or of a mountain hike. I was particularly surprised to find myself subconsciously pondering the tiniest filaments in the fabric of every scene that people talked about in an enhanced way.
Each time I hear a familiar song here at Concordia, my mind takes me back to where I first heard to it, reconstructing the finer points of the scene with accuracy, little things that I had never noticed at first and which could hint to the particularities of Proustian memory.
I can now picture the reflections of shimmering sunlight on the surface of cars on early spring mornings. I used to be so eager to catch the bus that I failed to notice the drops of humidity on the leaves of trees. The smell of fresh bread from a bakery’s open doors when the weather is good or the odour of wet soil when it rains. The sounds of life in the city – not only the traffic, but also overhearing people who talk in the street, briefly passing by and swiftly rushing out of your own continuum, as if in a Gus Van Sant movie. The hissing of the wind, the annoying horn of a truck or the ring of a bicycle. The golden shades of a summer afternoon and why the sky is so fundamentally different from a pinky-orange afternoon in the winter. The sound of insects (we haven’t seen any insects for about a year now). The tactile impressions of warm sand swishing through your fingers. The refreshing feeling of a cool cocktail upon your throat when it is warm or the chill that crawls under your coat on an autumn day. These might be reflections of just another day for you, but they bear a profound importance to me. At times I miss even unpleasant stimulations, just because they complete the rich spectrum of what we can sense with every breath we draw. Things like the smell of garbage, the annoyance of sweat or the thundering rumble of a storm that prevents you sleeping at night.
Above all, the hues of green have a staggering effect on me whenever I bump into them, in photographs or other media. Real, natural green would be what I miss the most here in the white continent – and not because it happens to be the colour of my favourite sports team. A trick to keep myself connected to the rest of the globe is watching films shot in lavish locations – from Iceland to India, the Pacific, China, and Turkey, observing and absorbing the canvas of each locality can rejuvenate my mood.
I anticipated that this experience at Concordia was one of learning, but it was unforeseen in its intensity. Perhaps tasting the abundance of reality after the end of our isolation will be a feeling similar to enjoying a grandiose meal after months of fasting. Treasuring every ingredient that forms our perception of the cosmos from the greatest and most insignificant moments. Incidentally, “cosmos” means “jewel” in my native tongue. Having now missed a large part of this cosmos, it would be comforting to think that people deprived of their sight, or the hearing-impaired, can also enjoy the world around us by depending on such a method of “enhanced imagination”, or by translating what they cannot grasp into forms and tones that they can perceive in greater ways than most of us.
Today’s Log Entry does not include any pictures as the previous ones have. It is not easy to read line after line without a break of colourful images, is it?! Perhaps you can close your eyes and envision all that you have read or all that is dear and holds meaning for you. Unlike a picture, it is much harder to engage continuously in this activity – but your interpretation of every scene will be unique and personalised. We could say, that is the difference between reading a book and watching a film. Constructing your own reality instead of receiving one. After all, the great William Blake embraced imagination as “human existence itself”.
I hope you enjoyed this little exercise. Welcome to our world of Enhanced Imagination.