The human eye is a remarkably poor tool for observing the world.
We can look but often do not see. And seeing certainly doesn’t result in believing.
We can focus with great skill but at the risk of blinkering ourselves.
Best of all, we can hold such a strong belief in our brains that it determines what we see and what we focus on — what’s real.
It’s funny how easy it is to ignore what’s right in front of us — and terrifying how we can focus on what isn’t there at all.
Seeing is rarely believing.
But when we really believe in something, that’s all we can see.
This weekend we were basking in some unusually warm May sun when I caught a moment.
It was passing me by and looking the other way, so I reached out and held it for a while. It didn’t mind too much.
While it was snuffling around, the warm, fuzzy little moment told me that all the ups and downs of existence had led it to pass by me at that time on that bench in that park.
All the good and evil of history, the luck and misfortune of worlds, the colossal interstellar explosions and mass extinctions, all so I could gently cook on that park bench, sipping that ice-cold beer, and think, “isn’t this nice.”
I thanked the little moment for coming such a long way to see me.
“Same time tomorrow?” I asked.
But the little moment just winked, and scurried off into the past.
The standing average is about one a month, totally ruined.
It’ll usually happen sometime between 7 and 11 am, but it’s worse when it’s in the afternoon. Sometimes they’re pale blue or grey but usually white.
A moment of distraction and a lukewarm dribble of pitch-black invades the virgin cotton. Somehow, despite thirty-odd years of using it, I still don’t know where my mouth is.
I cannot count the number of shirts I have ruined from a moment’s lack of presence.
There’s an old proverb that says, “When drinking tea, drink tea.”
This is very sound advice for life, not just because it’s important to be mindful about what we do, to stay in the moment, and enjoy the little things in life.
But also because if you don’t, you’ll probably ruin your shirt.
Now, that’s wisdom.
Clocks were a good idea but they’re not terribly helpful.
Maybe for catching a train or a movie. But time is squishy and malleable, unlike reliable forces such as gravity.
The less you have of it, the faster it goes.
The more you have to fill, the slower it gets.
The more you’re enjoying it, the less there is of it.
If you’re watching, it barely moves at all. And when something really bad happens, it just stops completely.
Time ain’t fair.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll never get enough.
But I’ll take every minute I can get.
It’s very easy to live for eighty years without noticing.
The business of living involves so much worrying, fussing, and faffing that we often simply forget we’re alive at all.
One of the best ways to avoid this is to invest in some pool floaties.
It’s impossible to do anything in a pool floaty except enjoy life. If you try to do anything more than drift very majestically, sipping a Strawberry Daiquiri, you’re going to become very frustrated indeed.
Life isn’t all cocktails and pool floaties.
They just happen to be a particularly good way to stop and appreciate how great life is.
If you ever doubt we’re spinning, just get a bit drunk.
When you do, it’s immediately apparent that we’re standing on something that’s moving very fast indeed — about 1,000 miles per hour.
Another way is to watch a little kid learning to walk. They move the same as if you were trying to stand up on something wobbly that was moving fast.
Usually, we’d be too busy to notice how much work our brain is doing to keep us upright.
But as soon as we have a few glasses of wine and stand completely still, it’s impossible to ignore that we’re on a giant rock hurtling through space — because it won’t keep bloody still.
What a ride!
You might think you’re powerless but that’s the easy excuse.
Nobody is powerless.
Even just setting an example by the way you live could have a bigger impact than you realize.
It’s so easy to point at other people and complain, “They should be doing such and such a thing.”
Or whine, “Why aren’t they doing this other thing?”
But are you doing it?
What have you done to make the world a better place? Maybe those people think the same about you.
Before pointing fingers, throwing stones, or smearing shit, start by asking, “What am I doing to make the world better?”
Every time I ask myself this question, the answer is, “Not enough.”
And every time I ask myself, “Am I setting the right example in the way I live?”
I find that I could be doing that a lot better too.
No matter how busy we think we are, there’s always time for this little lifehack. It’s super easy too.
Just stop and look around at where you are and all the incredible things you can see right now.
That shouldn’t be too hard unless you’re driving.
Traffic lights and trees are equally marvellous subjects of wonderment; whatever you’re reading this on is a bloody miracle.
Then take another second or two to look inside your head at how far you’ve come and all the astonishing things you’ve done in your life so far. I bet you’ve got some crazy cool memories stashed away somewhere.
At this point I usually say to myself something like, “Damn, I’m a lucky boy.”
There’s always a moment spare to stop and take it all in.
And when you do, you’ll realize just how long you’ve been winning.
It’s easy to get caught up in our thoughts, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay in them.
Thoughts are just random brain cells talking to each other.
There’s rarely meaning there; it’s just a biochemical process that happens automatically to stop us from getting bored.
And we get to choose what we think about, just like we can choose what channel to watch or book to read.
If we’re not paying attention, our thoughts will whisk us away to some fantasy realm where we said something different, or how we imagine something later will be.
But we don’t have to listen to that crap if we don’t want to.
Thoughts might happen in our heads, but they don’t define us.
You are not your thoughts.
The next time you catch yourself thinking something nasty or frustrating or just plain unhelpful, remind yourself, “It’s just a thought.”
Some of the most powerful lessons are learnt through fiction and literature, and great authors like Kurt Vonnegut.
Once, he said that it’s all too easy to notice when things are going badly, but often we don’t notice when things are going well.
And I’m not talking about the obvious times like getting a raise or getting laid or getting a compliment.
I’m talking about the little things — the tiny things that make us happy; like that warm glow of sunshine across your face on a crisp, bright, blue winter’s day.
Or that tingly chill of a fresh margarita on a summer afternoon.
Or that deep tang of your first coffee of the day.
Or the waft of freshly baked bread tickling your nostrils.
Kurt said that when that ‘nice’ thing happens, call it out.
Say out loud, “Well, if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
And pretty soon, you’ll notice that life is full of these beautiful, plain, every day, fantastically nice moments.