Establish Association

A few days ago, I left work with some colleagues. It was still not completely dark in Beijing at around seven o'clock, and the sky was tinged with yellow against the backdrop of the lights.

It was quiet outside the building, and the evening breeze was gentle. Niki suddenly spoke up and asked, "Have you smelled anything?" I tried to sniff, but there didn't seem to be any special smell. She continued, "I just smelled the scent of a school playground and couldn't help but think of the scene of walking on the playground." We all laughed, thinking that it was just the normal smell of a parking lot in this area.

Niki's comment reminded me of some similar scenes.

For example, when I now listen to Jay Chou's "Qilixiang" and "Ye Qu," I still think of the nights in junior high school when a few classmates huddled in bed listening to songs on MP3 players. I also think of the evenings in the playground during my senior year of high school, running to release stress. Occasionally, when I smell the diesel smell of a car, I think of chasing after those trucks and specifically smelling that "pleasant" smell. When I eat street food in alleys while traveling, I think of the taste of snacks that used to cost only fifty cents. When I see old photos in albums, they take me back to the moment frozen when the shutter was pressed... There are many, many more scenes connected by sound, smell, taste, and sight that seem to be deeply rooted in my mind, forming a part of our past.

Although they seem to have been sealed away, as long as there is a tiny clue, they will ignite memories like a spark falling into gasoline.

However, my life has gradually become monotonous and less filled with familiar scenes since elementary school. The most obvious example is the past year of 2020, when I spent most of my time at home, resulting in almost no memories of that year. Fortunately, I spent a lot of leisure time on reading, so even though my life was lacking, my spiritual world was rich enough.

Reading is the same when it comes to making connections. With the convenience of e-books, many people still insist on reading physical books, and I believe that feeling of paper is something that e-books lack. The smell of books, the feeling of paper sliding across your fingertips, and the subtle relationship between a person and the book in their hands are stored in the brain along with the content of the book. When you see underlined passages in a book several years later, you may still remember the reading scene from that year.

Speaking of this, I remember a habit in our high school class. Whenever it was someone's turn for duty, they had to record something in a notebook, similar to a "class diary." You could record interesting things that happened that day, or new knowledge you learned, or even your own creations, in any form. I remember that I recorded many different things on it, including events, thoughts, copying poems, and even drawings, all sorts of things.

When our homeroom teacher advocated for this class diary, he gave us a long speech about why, and I almost forgot everything he said. But one scene he described stuck with me: when I retire, sitting on the balcony in a rocking chair, the evening sun shining on me, flipping through everyone's class diaries, reading the words written by each person, recalling the figures of your youth, how wonderful that would be...

Paragraphs of text connect our monotonous yet vibrant youth. Whether it's being honest, humble, rebellious, or introverted... each notebook contains a part of our high school life. Looking back, I have to praise the homeroom teacher for this practice, as it added a touch of interest to our dull life of solving problems. I think to myself, when should I also go back and read the words I wrote in those years, to rediscover the past me.

So, is it necessary to establish this kind of connection? Actually, I'm not sure. But it is indeed a beautiful experience, whether it's in the present or the future. And to establish more and more connections, we need to go out and experience, and truly feel. The most direct way is to turn off the computer, put down the phone, and go for a walk.

Now, I'm going out for a walk.


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