What is an oasis? The dictionary says it is a small area of water and green plants surrounded by desert. This meaning has developed into a common English metaphor. As a metaphor, 'oasis' is used to describe any place that offers a pleasant contrast to normal or difficult circumstances. For example, "During the war, his library was his oasis." Unfortunately, when metaphors are used too often, they can lose their proper meaning, and I believe the common use of 'oasis' is a good example of this problem.
In everyday speech, 'oasis' is usually used to express the ideas of 'pleasantness' or 'relief' from harsh conditions. However, the most important element of an 'oasis' (real or metaphorical) is not 'pleasantness' but 'contrast'. An oasis is a sudden, brief contrast with normal circumstances.
Recently, I visited Junam Reservoir, a wetland habitat right here in Changwon. This, for me, was an oasis. In other words, it offered a sudden contrast to normal life. But what do I mean by this word 'contrast'? I do not merely mean that Junam is a beautiful natural setting, different from the concrete and traffic of Changwon.
When we are in our normal circumstances, living our normal lives, our thoughts also become normal. We think in predictable ways, and see only the obvious and ordinary. A sudden change in circumstances opens the mind to fresh thoughts, or to clearer thinking. Therefore, an oasis not only brings 'pleasure' or 'relief', but it can also surprise us, or make us question the everyday world, and especially our own everyday thinking. This can be uncomfortable, or even a little scary. It is always easier not to question your ordinary thoughts.
However, a life without this kind of contrast will be a life without discovery, including self-discovery. Therefore, the pleasure offered by an oasis is more than just the pleasure of taking a rest. It is an intellectual pleasure. The mind is freed from its routine ways of thinking. Life's normal limits disappear for a moment, and our thoughts fly in uncommon directions.
(To be continued.)
Daren Jonescu -
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