Things That Make You Feel Alive


People go through life wanting to feel alive.

After spending days docile and dulled at work or school, we seek pleasure. Things that get the blood going, the eyes shining.

For some, this comes in the form wild, adrenaline-filled activities. Parties, crawling with coloured lights and the glitter of disco balls and the thump thump thump of blood-shaking music. One-night stands. Roller-coasters. Going on holidays, jumping out of a plane. Getting a drastic makeover. Going on a heady shopping spree.

But for others, that sense of aliveness, that feeling of your soul soaring out of your chest like a blossoming, glowing dove to envelop the world in a white rush, comes from quieter, smaller things.

The sight of a sunset, staining the heavens crimson.

A shaded, wooded glen, in which tiny birds croon in the branches and squirrels scamper through the undergrowth. Sunlight dappling the ground, pale yellow and green.

A homeless child, wrapped in bundles of clothes, and looking out at the world with her still, cold face. Others beg, moan, but she is silent. Quiet.

An empty playground beneath a stormy, grey sky, skeletal leaves skirling in the wind. The swing shakes slightly, side to side, as if briefly sat upon by a phantom child.

The warm body of a cat, pressed against your leg, purring and blinking its lazy, yellow eyes, as the rain patters on the roof outside. Cats are the most wonderful creatures in the world. Steady, quiet, selfish, loving, unpredictable.

A cracked and abandoned birdbath, ivy clustering about its rim. All the birds have flown away. There are beetles scuttling out of the cracks, and a lizard lies like a large and flat in its shadow.

An old statue, worn-down by the winds of time, carved eyes pale and miserable.

A mannequin, left by the side of the road, missing an arm and face-down in the grass. I wonder if this is what it envisioned, what it was first brought into the world by the unloving, metal arms of machines? What misery must be locked in its silent, little heart, to be stripped bare when it was made to wear and display beautiful clothes?

One single, straggling flower worming its way through a crack in the concrete. If there weren’t people around, I would kiss its dear little head and whisper to it encouragements.

Rows and rows of people on the bus, with heavy-lidded eyes and even heavier burdens in their breasts. The straps swung to and fro, like the halters of an abattoir. What would they look like, if they were following their dreams, if they were happy, if they were in their element? Beautiful. They would all look beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

A woman sits at a park bench, hem of dress sodden and eyes wet with newly-made tears. She carried with her no belongings. No handbag. Just herself. People pass her by. I pass her by too, but I secretly watch her, and I secretly hurt, and I secretly wonder.

That flash of vulnerability, that buried look in people’s eyes. I want to evaporate into a ghost myself and talk in low voice to their neglected souls.

Pools of still water, covered in froths of algae and lily pads.

An inquisitive crow, darting its beak into a bag of rubbish in front of someone’s house.

Even that brief moment before a thunderstorm which crackles a sense of giddy joy into our hearts. In its gloom, in its doom, in its power and strangeness and wildness, it is unutterably beautiful.

These things make me feel so inexpressibly ALIVE, so full and free, so real and solid that it feels as if my heart would burst from the joy. They touch upon the pulse of life. It’s one of the reasons people imagine and read. It brings them closer to feeling alive, to living in newer and stranger worlds that make our hearts soar and rise and fly.

You should find what makes you feel alive. And you should do it. Soak in it. Stuff your eyes with wonder as if you’ll die in ten seconds, as Ray Bradbury put it.

I’m tired of dead hearts.


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