I’m quite convinced these things are what ru(i)n our lives.
I have written elsewhere that it’s our sense of future, where we try desperately to project ourselves over the coming months and years, which governs much of our day-to-day behavior. We attempt to lay down the financial, emotional, and cognitive groundwork for a sense of peace that everything is going to work out okay.
I don’t intend to belittle this quirk of ours. Planning for the future is a good thing. It can quickly turn malignant, however, if we lose sight of the present and neglect ourselves and those around us to the “future” gods, but as long as we stop to smell the roses every once in a while, we should remain *somewhat* balanced.
We all have an idea of what a perfect moment is for ourselves, and it’s clearly a subjective phenomenon. What makes them all the better is when we catch ourselves having the perfect moment and can add that layer of appreciation to an already sublime moment. Sometimes we catch ourselves looking back, and take a moment to dwell in the now retrospective appreciation.
Our search for fostering perfect moments can lead us into attempting to create one, or recreate a previous one, and I think this is what ruins us; like demented slot jockeys pulling the same lever, forgetting that chance has no memory and doesn’t owe us a damn thing.
The desire to create a moment can lead us into buying things for the occasion, because we see it as needing to be present for the moment to occur, like part of a trigger. But when we do this, we become emotionally invested in our “things”, and if they don’t deliver we still want some magic from them. Imagine buying a new outfit for a date, getting ready, and then the date cancels. How hard is it to then get changed? How easy are we tempted just to go out anyway? We are going to shake the hell out of that magic 8-ball until we get something nice out of it.
Let’s say you’re changing the “flow” of your living room, and you have it all planned out in your head. You go out to buy the new cushions, rug, and curtains, and can’t find the colors you want. What are the chances of you returning home empty handed? Pretty slim, because you didn’t make that investment for your perfect moment in your new living room for nothing to change.
I think Tyler Durden in Fight Club says it best. “The things you own, end up owning you.”
I don’t have any answers. I’m not leading you up to join a yoga group or take up running. Self reflection and stop trying to control everything is all I have. Know thyself!
There is something to a different kind of perfect moment that I did want to discuss, and I realized it while thinking about getting older. I greet this fact of life the same way most other people do, with a mixture of hope and fear. But for some reason, I asked myself if there was any difference between the way a young person makes a cup of tea, and the way an old person makes a cup of tea. Sure, you can joke about tremors and arthritis, or the length of time it takes to complete the task, but putting those aside, there’s a very obvious difference in terms of the procedural memory involved.
Procedural memory is the part of our memory that fine tunes actions, almost like a stored process that is started when we give it permission. Those actions you do without really thinking about it – brushing your teeth, preparing stir fry, fishing, the way you walk, and how you make a cup of tea. Unless we deliberately and consciously alter what we’re doing, there’s very little variation in the way we do these things.
Now, going back to the old person making tea. They’ve no doubt repeated that action thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of more times than the young person, and each of those times was (obviously) during a moment in their life, perhaps even an emotionally salient moment. The process of making the tea is a repeating signature that marks the rhythm of their life. Over the many years, the subtle actions have fine tuned the way that is perfect for them to make the tea, and looking, feeling, and smelling each stage of the tea making process perhaps triggers a wealth of memories from many tea-drinking moments in their life.
To hit an age where even the simplest of our behaviors provides a window with which to peer all the way back through our lives, should we care to look, and each moment is perfect because we know we lived through it. That is what should be meant by a golden age.
I lied about not having an answer. It’s drinking tea.