People Are People, Too
Don’t look now, kids. But it just got okay to be real people.
Yes! Psychology Today published an existentially affirming article entitled, “Quit Feeling Guilty About Not Being Present”. Think of it!
This may be all the reassurance you need about the fact that, as a human being, you’re blessed with a memory and the ability to look ahead, to anticipate, to plan, to take steps, and to amend courses as you go:
For years, the gurus of presence, such as Eckhart Tolle and Jon Kabat-Zinn, have said you find joy in the present moment. Thinking about the past or future causes feelings of regret or worry. Their teachings have driven up the popularity of mindfulness and learning how to be here now … they are not practical guides for living moment to moment … judging yourself as inadequate for feeling emotions, reliving past events, and worrying about the future is a waste of energy … Our emotions and thoughts are motivations that either support or subvert our choice to act and must be considered essential to our ethical reasoning.
The bad news is you squandered a lot of time being in the moment. The good news is it’s now okay to beat yourself up for doing that shit.
PPS (Peter Pan Syndrome)
In some ways we’re benefiting — and suffering — from the effects of the so-called New Age movement that started in the early 1970s. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the self-absorbed hedonism of the alleged counterculture didn’t want us to be looking beyond the ends of our noses, regretting any of the self-indulgent nonsense with which we were so enamored, or looking ahead to a future we couldn’t imagine or didn’t want to imagine because it entailed aging. Maturing wasn’t a subject of very much allure back in those heady days.
Neither was making meaningful decisions or consequential choices. That’s why we preferred the dark lenses of our granny glasses to the much more valuable, fruitful, and constructive lenses of hindsight and foresight that might have helped us — or caused us — to make better decisions sooner and to have a better appreciation for the value of the present, beyond dwelling in it to protect us from reality.
Go Ahead, Back Up
Hindsight and foresight aren’t weaknesses or detriments. They’re not preclusions to happiness. They’re abilities. They’re gifts. They enable us to determine courses to happiness and fulfillment. They’re among the reasons we’re human and squirrels are not. Most important, the perceptions we derive from them are unique to each of us.
For example, what you and I experience in the moment of freefall while skydiving may be quite similar. But what I learn from and decide to do after doing it without a parachute will likely be different from what you learn and decide. That’s what’s known in the biz as contributory value:
the value something has due to there being more value in the actual situation in which that thing is present than a situation in which it isn’t but other factors were reorganized to minimize its absence.
If our lives could be richer, happier, more fulfilling, and more rewarding by living in this moment — then this disconnected moment, and then the next disconnected moment, and so on — we wouldn’t have the powers of hindsight and foresight. But we do. We can choose to live our lives without learning from the past and using what we learn in the future. But if we make that choice, we should lower our existential expectations accordingly.
Hindsight, foresight, and our ability to make decisions are some of the aspects and abilities that make us human.
And people are people, too.