A Moments Notice

She smiled and said with an ecstatic air: “It shines like a little diamond”,
“What does?”
“This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.”

― Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason


When I look back upon my life, both recently, say the last few weeks or month, and much further back, years back, I can only see a collection of moments, most of which I’m nostalgic for, and few that I regret. It’s these moments, though, that take up the entirety of my memory of my own personal history. I haven’t yet determined whether that is something to be concerned about or is just the nature of memory, brains, and aging. But I have figured out this much, and just recently while considering a lovely newer friend of mine. All the ruts I have ever been in have been exacerbated by my inability to remember something terribly important about moments, the good and the bad ones, and even the mundane ones. That though the word “moments” coaxes us to think of them as independent packets of time flying through us, carrying us, whirling around us, they are not. If you remember your high school physics, it might better to think of them like light, both wave-like and infinite, but also like little photon packets capable of being effected, incapable of traveling through or around walls. What I’m saying is that a moment never exists in-and-of-itself. And that I have a tendency, when reminiscing about my past moments in which I was happy, or sad, or angry, or melancholic, to forget about all the things I had to do or not do, to say or not say, decisions made or not made, that got me to that moment of happiness, sadness, anger, or melancholy. So when I ask myself, Why can’t I be happy, or productive, or valuable like I was then?” my despair incorrectly lies in wanting that moment to simply return. It never returns. It never just arrived in the first place. A series of actions and thoughts took me there! And here’s the crazy part, I didn’t have control over so many of those actions or thoughts or decisions. Certainly, I had control of many, but definitely not all of them. And here’s something even crazier. Arguably, 87% of the time, I couldn’t tell you if I was in control of what I was doing or what decision I was making, or if I was reacting to set of circumstances that were largely out of my control!

I guess here’s my point. I like history. I like my own history. I like recounting it to friends, acquaintances, lovers, and strangers. I like simply thinking on mine, with some remorse at times, with affection many other times, with longing, and appreciation as well. But doing that in service of trying to achieve happiness or attain a specific-type of moment will not serve you well. Because the moments you are examining your past in order to will a future or even a present, you are doing precisely nothing but watching reruns.

But who am I to say this how things are or should be done. I have largely spent the last the 5 years willing myself to be happy or successful without having to do very much at all. It has not been successful. The thing I fear, knowing this now, most of all is not that I will continue to procrastinate or waste time; I fear that I have already wasted too much.