Sometimes I have a moment. We all do. A little ‘eek’ or a big ‘ACK!’ – they’re part of everyone’s life.
There are things in life that are no-kidding, out of the blue, ambushing events. We’ve all experienced that. But sometimes, that twinge or that moment of panic comes to me and I feel it and then I remember – this is a choice I made.
Because we all make those choices, daily, weekly, monthly, or once in a lifetime. We decide to move somewhere, turn down something, accept something and move on. That’s how life works. And, while it’s human nature to look back occasionally and think ‘what if?’ – in reality there is (alternate universes and parallel time streams not withstanding) only one past and one current moment. The only thing that is not known is the future. We don’t control all of that future, pretty good odds on that too.
So on those days when the big ‘EEP!” hits me upside the head, the only thing I can control is how I react to it. That doesn’t banish reaction, mind you. There are still tears or a wave of disappointment or anger or frustration, whatever. Because we’re human. I’m human. But there are some things in my life that I can look at and say, honestly, to myself: this was a choice I made. That often puts a damper on the wild emotional rollercoaster and puts me in a mind frame of – what can be done about this now? Maybe it’s just the realization that this isn’t just a random, arbitrary thing that’s presenting itself to me but part of a chain of things that I’ve thought about before.
That’s wildly wordy and was stirred up by reading Brain Pickings posting of David Foster Wallace’s memorable commencement address, “This is water.” Read and listen to it over at Brain Pickings.
…I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about ‘the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.’ — David Foster Wallace
Maybe it gets easier as you get older to realize that you can’t hold onto and change everything so you can walk away from some things and choose to stick it out with others. It’s advice I give others more regularly these days – but it’s probably something you have to figure out yourself because in the end, it starts with that singular moment where you choose. You make the choice. You go from there.
On a slightly different but weirdly related note (if only because it’s about flowing water), an image shared on facebook yesterday (Gregory Thielker’s Complete Stop 2008 – check out this and the rest of his work here)reminded me of this. You see this
from time to time over in the sidebar as a random pic. Down below is the non-square version.