In 2018, on my request, my grandfather wrote a letter to my wife to celebrate a milestone birthday.
It was a one-page handwritten letter filled with a goldmine-like numbered list of observations about life that he had gleaned along the way. In his typical understated way, he said “it is not a worked-out system but rather some random things that I approve”. After I read the letter, I thought much of it in the coming weeks and days.
One in particular thing still stands out to me: “give way to quirky experiments”.
I thought more about it and realised that Grandad is one of the most intellectually curious people I have known. He has always had some sort of experiment on the go – whether it was building something, planting or growing something, or simply reading about a new area.
Notably, I turned up at their house one day (well into his retirement) to discover a giant telescope sitting in his study. It turned out that he had picked up a book about stars, taken an interest in astronomy, and started stargazing from suburban Brisbane.
I’ve tried – to varying degrees of success – to adopt this advice.
Around the time of his letter to my wife, I grew an avocado tree from seed (pictured above). I tried painting (this was not a success). I’ve enjoyed baking bread. I grew a sourdough starter. I brewed beer with a friend. I’ve tried to grow various seeds or try new food combinations.
Many of these experiments failed; most barely lasted a week. But I can recall many of these quirky experiments – especially the ones shared with friends – because they added welcome trivia my life in a way that the ‘ eat / work / eat / sleep / repeat’ cycle cannot.
If all you are is the sum total of your work (and, dare I say, religious) life, then you are probably – frankly – a bit boring. If nothing else, your quirky experiments make for good pub conversation-fodder… “Did I tell you guys I’m growing an avocado tree?”