You Are Disappearing.
As I set out across the field, leaving my footprints in the morning’s fresh snow. Alongside whatever else is occupying my mind, is the melancholy awareness that upon my return, I will see those same prints and know that version of myself no longer exists. We all have our windows into existential awareness, and this is mine — foot prints in snow. Evidence that we are disappearing, that our measure of days is running through the glass is all around us, but we shield ourselves from it, turning our attention instead to problems we can influence. The fact that in a moment, the self of now no longer exists, is a reality too crushing to dwell on, and too easily can lead to the conclusion that nothing matters. Here today, gone tomorrow... what’s the point?
I prefer to conclude that everything matters. I say we do best to believe the point of life is to live it as well as we can, to attend to our quality of experience while here. Not in the hedonistic sense of heedless pleasure, but in the steady effort to do our best, be our best, one conscious moment at a time.
Years of observation have given rise to a pretty good understanding of what makes humans thrive.
For starters, we know we are useless if we feel unwell; basic physical healthis the prerequisite for every other effort. Here is where the "everything matters" part begins. Getting enough sleep, putting the better things into our mouths, using our amazing bodies to move and run and stretch, are all prerequisites for any good effort.
Next, as profoundly social creatures, we need connection to build satisfying lives. Too easily we forget the intimate relationship between our own well being, and the well being of of those around us. The presence of mirror neurons is evidence enough that we are wired for empathy, as is the robust finding that giving and serving make us happy. Pro-social behavior is our baseline, already evident in infancy, and derailed only by painful experiences. Kindness is the open window back to that baseline. Kindness, whenever possible... remembering that everything matters.
Third is the matter of meaning. We need to feel useful in some way by making art or teaching others or transporting goods or fixing engines. There is an infinity of ways to be useful, and from this comes meaning and purpose.
I would bet on Wellness, Connection, and Meaning against any other combination of factors as a recipe for a good life.
Every moment matters, but little of what we distract ourselves with does. Not our wealth or how our weight or whether a particular person loves us back. There are so many to love, we already have such riches, let us weigh in on the scales of meaning. There is no time to waste. You are disappearing.
Dr. Sandra Eugster, Ph.D.