Thursday, 4 November 2010


'Live for the moment'. Interesting concept, isn't it?

I know it's basically meant to mean you should take every opportunity you have to experience and enjoy whatever life throws at you. Squeeze every last drop from every last moment, because it might be your only chance. Taken to extremes, this maxim advocates the abandonment of consideration for both the past, and the future. There's obviously room for interpretation though, and the extent to which we remember and learn from past experiences is up to us. Likewise, most people would think it wise to remain cognisant of any implications our actions today, may have on tomorrow.

Nonetheless, living in the moment is something I've always practised, it seems to me, more literally than most. As a child I would always put off chores or schoolwork until the last possible day, even the last possible moment, favouring instead a walk, the TV, or that game I invented which involved trying to fling those little sachets of soy sauce or ketchup you get in Pot Noodles, into the small oval-shaped opening in an empty tissue box positioned against a door on the other side of the room. The thought that I was better than anyone in the world at propelling a 5x4cm condiment-filled plastic envelope with devastating accuracy some ten feet across my bedroom, seemed vastly more important than anything Mr Whatsisname might have set me for homework.

I'd still do the homework, most of the time at least. Getting into trouble was drawing unnecessary attention to oneself. There was the occasional calcuated gamble that a deadline would be extended that didn't pay off, but I could always talk my way around any punishment. I had one detention during my entire school career, and that was for the ridiculous misdemeanour of forgetting to bring in my Bible one day. No, the homework would get done. But it would be rushed, and vastly inferior to that of which I was capable. None of which mattered to me. I limited the amount I did to the bare minimum which was permissable, boxes were ticked, the years passed.

This wasn't laziness, you understand. It wasn't the mere rebellion of a young boy who thinks he knows better. I could see the viewpoint of my teachers, of my parents. Good education = good job = successful life = happiness. It was just that I never agreed with any of it. Can't remember a time when I did. I don't remember any kind of epiphany or realisation that it was all bullshit. I just always knew that it was. People lived for a while, then they died. What happened in between was really neither here nor there. Just get from one end of the piece of the string to the other without encountering too much resistence. That was my philosophy as a five-year-old just as much as it is now.

On occasion, I recall chuckling to myself at the huge amount of work I was going to have fit in next week in just a single evening as a result of my indifference, as if that person who would be struggling to do the work next week was someone other than myself. When the time finally came to do the work, neither would I curse my selfish, work-shy, good-for-nothing self of a week ago for making hay while the sun shone, at my expense. He was my kind of guy, you see. If anything I admired his devil-may-care attitude.

Using the sauce sachet and tissue box game as an example, the fact is that I have always taken a perverse pleasure in spending disproportionate amounts of time on obscure tasks I know full well to be completely pointless. It's my own little way of thumbing my nose at a life which, if I am honest, I believe to be pointless in its entirety. I can't identify with people who work hard, who pursue ambitions, who set goals and spend months, years and even lifetimes in their quest for some perceived state of perfection. So long as there is nothing wrong NOW, at this very point in time, I'm satisfied. Even if there is something ominous on the horizon, even if it is around the corner, so long as it is not HERE, NOW, I remain serenely unaffected.

Often, the ominous will recede, or turn out not to be so bad after all. On the rare occasions that something that looks bad turns out to be every bit as bad, or even worse, I either pedal like hell to remove myself from the situation, to find as direct and trouble-free a route as possible to my default position as a bemused and uninterested spectator-cum-semi-participant in the world; or I carry on regardless, oblivious to any threat.

Here's an example for you. A few years back, they found a growth on one of my mother's kidneys. They had become intertwined in such a way that the only thing to do was remove them both. That's a reasonably major surgical procedure, all with the spectre of cancer hanging over her at the same time. She is not a healthy woman - overweight, a heavy smoker who gets next to no exercise - not high on the list of suitable candidates for organ removal. It was not a pleasant time for my mother, or any of my family. Except for me. It slightly embarrasses me even now, but my behaviour did not deviate in the slightest, not for a single moment, from what could be described as normal for me. Not from the point of diagnosis, right through her admission to hospital, the procedure itself, and the recovery period thereafter. I wasn't sad or worried for a single moment. I love my mother a great deal. We have always been close, and even now speak every day. I will be upset when that time does come, and will miss her very much. But the me who's going to have to deal with that isn't the me of today. As it happens, I think my consistency and apparent stoicism was actually a source of comfort to her back then. But I wasn't putting on a front. I wasn't concealing inner turmoil, and fighting back the urge to shower her with sympathy and affection lest it be the last chance I got. I had no such urge.

This isn't a coping mechanism. It may have been a subconscious decision at first, but for a long time I've been very well aware that now is all that matters to me. It seems illogical to me to react to something before it takes place. Not only because it might not happen, but also, and more importantly, because allowing the possibility of something bad in the future to pollute a perfectly harmless and agreeable now, would be a crime, pure and simple. Now is all that we have, and the purity of now is fundamental to any happiness we might be able to achieve. If I feel strongly about anything (and I don't), then it's that.

More evenings than not, upon going to bed, one of my final thoughts before sleep is something along the lines of "Right here, right now, there is only me. It is dark. I am warm and safe. Nothing matters." That comforts me like nothing else.


FreeFox said...

Hey, thanks for your comment on my blog. Glad to be able to idle away some of your purely present hours. ^_^ If you got any comments, criticism, feedback (like, e.g. did anything bore you, was anything unclear or confusing, make you lose track, etc.) or so, please tell me. After all, I know what I want to tell, but I don't know what it is that peeps get from the tale.

I'm not sure I would understand that Carpe Diem thing the way you describe it. What you say sound more like a huge "fuck you world" - which I totally understand - than a true enjoyment of every second. You know, less the enjoyment of what you are doing or experiencing than an enjoyment of what you are not doing at the moment.

Who said that doing nothing can only be thoroughly enjoyed when there is some pressing things calling for your attention?

Maybe you like this video:

Ben said...

Fox (is that what I should call you?),

Thanks. There are so many ways of looking at living for the moment. I suppose what I'm saying is I live IN the moment. Enjoyment is all very well, but so long as I'm not actively having a bad time of it, that seems to be enough most of the time.

It's a pretty gentle form of rebellion, I guess. But it's all I can be bothered to come up with.

I'll wear my critic's hat from now on when I visit. I can tell you that it certainly isn't boring so far!