When one has their first child, a parent is repeatedly told “enjoy these moments” – as if it is so easy. Since my first was born, I have tired, everyday, to literally try to enjoy and embrace every single moment and it has been my experience that you just cannot. For one, the way I feel I cannot accurately conceptualize. The human mind is not programmed to understand a number of things (infinity, large distances, etc) and the love a parent feels for a child cannot be fully understood, leaving that feeling lacking in the “attention” one could give it. Additionally, it is impossible to devote the time needed to enjoy the relationship. You really cannot utilize the time we have with our children to the extent it deserves. We are constantly distracted and cannot ever discipline our thoughts to ever enjoy any serious relationships. The discursivity of thought itself never allows us to “live in the moment” for long.
I remember one summer afternoon, my 2.5 year-old daughter was walking with a stroller and she wanted to go by herself so I sat back and watched. I remembered reflecting on how perfect this day was and how much I really cared for her. It was a dry breezy summer day and I watched her walk away pushing a stroller too big for her to see over and thought about how soon she will be walking across the graduation stage – I then reflected on how many moments we will have until that point. In anguish I realized how no matter how much I value her company, I can never get enough time with her – nor can I ever devote the amount of attention to those moments that they deserve. Almost like a hunger we can never satisfy, we are destined to grab at mist of happiness but we can never get there. We are meant to chase these ever-fleeting moments and sensations that will never stay with us besides only in memory which is, in its own nature, fleeting, temporary, and fading. We live, not for the moment, but for the craving of the moment or sensation. People also tend to remember negative experiences easier than positive ones. One could have an amazing meal with family and friends, and then see the bill and become troubled over finances. And in a single moment, all the positive and meaningful time spent with loved ones is gone. Instead, we must learn to live in the moment, and honestly weigh the moment to moment experiences rather than just the magnitude of memories.
To live a full life would be to recognize how we cannot grasp these moments, and to dedicate as much time as possible trying while shaving away wasteful moments that steal our attention. Like Sisyphus, we roll the boulder up the hill for these moments, just to see the moments fade all too quickly. But Sisyphus watches the boulder go away, shrugs, and begins again. It is in every moment of rolling the boulder and watching it fall that we can grasp these happy moments. The moments need not be ignored out of nihilism either, for neglecting these moments out of despair will only steal more of the moment from those around you. For the good of oneself and those around you, always chase these fleeting moments. Though they are temporary, fleeting, and fading, they are all we have. Do not fret when you fail to utilize a moment. Learn from it. When people get upset and have an outburst or talk in front of people and get nervous, they beat themselves us. They fail to realize this is human nature. Getting upset and nervous is no different than having an itch on our leg – and we don’t beat ourselves up for having an itch. The best we can do is recognize what happened and let it go.
The present moment is key because we crave that feeling and that experience. It is a quality of attention, not what is attended to. So when one is enjoying the moment so much they “lose” themselves, they are living in the moment. Yes, one craves food or sex or company but it is that moment when you are actively participating, eating, talking where you lose yourself that you are craving. Chase these moments and actively try to find ways to fully enjoy these times. Being completely mindful of the present is the key to enjoying something as close to the most possible.
Featured image: Thomas Webster, The Frown, 1842, © Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London