As I basked in the temporal emptiness of my layover, stretching my legs out on the London Gatwick airport floor, it occurred to me that I was enjoying a rare leisurely interlude between the two opposing universal forces that shape history, novelty and habit. The life of yesterday was habit comprising familiar places, faces, feelings and things—while the unknown potential of tomorrow would be novelty.
After some time, a habitual routine inevitably becomes a grind, the kind of grind that permeates your life, breaks you down and even finds its way into your teeth at night while you sleep. When we look back on our lives it’s not the habit that we remember but the novelty. Habitual days coalesce into weeks, and then merge into months and years like droplets of water becoming puddles. Remembering a single day becomes like trying to single out an original drop of water.
The novelty stays with us, it’s what we remember. Memories are made of the moments when something extraordinary happened expressed as spikes on the novelty curve.
Novelty Theory, proposed by Terence McKenna, the philosopher, author and ethnobotanist, theorises that the universe has an obvious preference for novelty and complexification over habit. He expressed the view that the universe presents a tendency towards the novel, specifically in the form of systems that are increasingly complex and interconnected.
On this planet novelty was initially manifested by geomorphology and the volcanic processes that shaped the earth. Then biology was the driving force of novelty with the explosion of life in the early oceans, the biosphere and the evolution of species throughout the ages that has ultimately led to us.
Now we human beings are centre stage as the new engine of novelty on Earth. With our novelty spikes such as the invention of agriculture and the industrial revolution, we are everything that biology is, plus science, philosophy, art, technology and so much more. Perhaps we are on the verge of creating the next driving force of novelty in the form of self aware artificial superintelligence. But alas I digress.
With this in mind I embraced novelty and excitedly boarded my connecting flight to Naples to join the ADN Swim Project in nearby Caserta. The flight descended over the sprawling metropolis of Naples, nestled between the massive looming Mt Vesuvius and the blue Mediterranean sea. It was unlike anywhere I had ever seen before. For a few moments, novelty in the form of a gorgeous view pulled me completely into the present like a wake up call to life—a reminder that the world is so much bigger than what we know. I could feel the gravity of the future’s potential on me in the present, demanding that I must do everything I could to live while I was alive.
It was total immersion. Straight into Italian culture, language, food and into the pool. From the first morning I could feel the passion and synergy at training with the world renowned swimmers under the watchful experienced gaze of coach Andrea Di Nino.
I kept thinking to myself how refreshing it was after my hard former habit of grinding out desperate laps and reps in the gym alone in Trinidad. It comforted me to remember that the arduous must be known to appreciate the fun.
Even the scientific approach was novel, especially for a Third World underdog like myself. I was impressed to say the least. In just this past first week I took a blood test, recorded biometrics, performed a postural analysis and high speed technical video recording of my stroke and dive with feedback from an expert in biomechanics. In addition to my usual gym routine, I also availed myself of the regular gymnastics sessions under the tutelage of a professional coach. Literally pure novelty everywhere!
The team, a host of welcoming international swimmers—some from countries in conflict like the Ukraine and Russia—served as a reminder that regardless of the side of the imaginary lines we draw on the earth’s surface we’re from, we are all just people with similar goals and dreams sharing this planet for a while.
As I read this over before submitting, the freshness of a new novel experience at training in a few minutes beckons me with inspiration, literally like a breath of fresh air. I explore you readers to break out of the grind, live, make memories and embrace the novelty of life at every opportunity. After all, remember you are the cutting edge of the universe’s expression of novelty!