The chilled air in the lobby of the Hilton was a welcome relief from the oven baked heat in this part of the United Arab Emirates. The respite was appreciated yet artificial all the same. The cavernous hotel with bling chandeliers, gilded lilies and Italianate floors harboured a hushed interior forcing people to speak in a whisper...almost embarrassed to be heard. A hotel without soul and a vacuous atmosphere. I was in search of conversation and found it in the shape of a graduate from the ‘Nearlyversity’ a fellow speaker at the same literary festival. The spark for our conversation was ingnited by his discreet badge which simply said, ‘I nearly’. Over a Diet Coke (in this dry state) he championed the philosophy of ‘Nearly-ology’.
"We’ve all nearly done, nearly been, nearly said, nearly created, nearly eaten, nearly been things in our lives. In fact the nearlies however significant or insignificant probably amount to more than the actual things we've achieved in our lives, So why not celebrate our nearlies with others as they’re as much a part of our actuals and often they’re the catalyst for things actually happening." I nodded enthusiastically perhaps a little too hard to mask my cynicism I mean surely one wants to broadcast one's achievements rather than a near miss.
I think he read my tell and answered my non vocal question. He continued, "We could learn, smile, persevere, be encouraged, switch course or simply admire other people’s nearlies. We might be in a similar nearly position. Sometimes we take life too seriously and the real fun is in the nearly journey". I nearly drained my Coke, save for the watered down bit dulled by ice cubes.
As the week wore on, I re-visited my nearlies...like the time I nearly had my vinyl confiscated by the long arm of the law during my stint as a pirate DJ, the thrill was in the nearly as I pursued superstar DJ status. Or the time I nearly drowned as a five year old in an Italian swimming pool, I promptly learned to swim. The bitter sweet memory of nearly scooping £400 on Pigeon Island at the Cheltenham Gold Cup race meeting.
My nearlies are more of a conversation piece in many ways than my actuals, the nearly journey allows us to explore which routes to pursue or as my new nearly friend, Chris Meade puts it in his manifesto;
“In the middle of this journey of life what we’ve done and nearly done begins to blur. Far more things nearly happen than happen. The universe is held together by the dust of humankind’s nearlyincidence. Embrace your nearliness, contribute to nearlyology. Be nearly.”