ROCHESTER, Minn. — Do we have specific taste buds for pure water? Scientists disagree. Some believe that water has no natural taste. Like the quiet of vacuum is to the ears or darkness of the other side of the moon is to the eyes, the taste of water is null. Other scientists posit that drinking water activates unique brain areas. No matter its innate taste, the taste of water depends on what is mixed in it and what you tasted just before (and is still sticking to your tongue).
The joy of drinking water depends less on its innate taste and more on how thirsty you are. Once, trekking up a mountain overseas, we ran out of water. With mouths parched, bodies dehydrated, and on the brink of collapse, we finally found a hut that had a large water-filled earthen pot with a moist cloth soaked around it. Resting on its side was an aluminum glass. The glass had a few dozen dents and outside scratches with dirt filling the crevices. The inside wasn't much cleaner, either, and had an “old” smell.
We weighed the options: Pass out from dehydration, or drink with the dirty glass. Everyone chose the second and wiser option. Not even the picky ones were bothered about the smell, the color or the dirt. No one woke up in the middle of the night with nightmares of germs performing Zumba in their stomach. We were too thirsty to care.
Similar to the joy of drinking water, the quality of our life’s experiences also depends on the experience as well as the experiencer. The more novelty and meaning you find in the experience, the greater the joy. Winning a Nobel prize is very meaningful, but a cup of coffee is often not. The secret is to recognize that your every experience is phenomenally unique and precious. Each person meeting you is infinitely worthy, and you have finite moments to experience life and connect with people.
When you choose to find novelty and meaning, an ordinary dinner will give the joy of a multicourse gourmet meal prepared by a celebrity chef, your loved one’s eyes will look better than sunrise in Hawaii, and connecting with an old acquaintance will feel like a 25-year reunion. You’ll awaken the child within you who knew how to have fun. You’ll get more out of your days and your life. And water might taste better, too!
I pray the music of joy fills every corner of your home and your ears are attuned to hear that music.
Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email email@example.com.