The Anatomy of a Serene Moment

Experience is a funny thing. Most of our experiences relate to the external world and what we see and hear and touch. The stuff of experience is the physical objects outside our minds. Yet, even if those physical objects have an objective existence (and that depends on whom you ask), experience is not objective. It is entirely subjective and consists on how that external world happens inside us. This keyboard and this computer display that dominate my everyday life are, in my view, concrete things outside me, but their reality to me is the feeling of the keys striking my fingers, the sight of what is on the display and its peripherally-noticed fringes, the aftertaste of the coffee in my mouth, the sound of the televised soccer game and my window fans in the background, and many other things wrapped into the single thing that is my consciousness of this moment. Because what I really have is this moment; and my life within that moment, despite its physical and external roots, happens entirely in my mind. And it happens indivisibly, wrapped up with the feelings and memories and random snippets of thought that pass through my mind while I type this entry, all experienced as one thing: me.

Which brings me to an important point: we cannot avoid experience while we are conscious. No matter what we do, we are experiencing each moment, and that expeirence adds to the stockpile of our past, which continues to live within us through accumulation. Ultimately, we are constructive entities that build our own consciousness brick by brick over the course of our entire lives, changing in each moment because that moment adds yet another brick to the edifice of our experience. (I could say “self-experience” but that would be a redundancy. All experience is experience of ourselves.) That happens to us willy-nilly as we live, because we can do nothing about our experiences happening or being cumulative any more than we can arrest the passage of time.

There is a very important implication to the inevitability of experience and the accumulation of experience. The implication is that it doesn’t really matter what you do, because, no matter what you do, you can’t help doing something, and the edifice of your next subjective moment is steadily being built. Some people make a big deal of having “better” experiences, which range from jumping out of airplanes to photographing Angkor Wat to giving birth to performing on-stage as the next musical superstar to simply getting a report from their assets manager that their assets have appreciated in this quarter. But the content of experience doesn’t really matter. Anyone who lives and does anything is building himself, involuntarily and helplessly but also in a salutary way, because no amount of physical privation and hardship can deprive even an indigent man of his constructive journey through life.

The lesson? Don’t worry about what you do. Don’t make bucket lists. Don’t yearn for the unreachable opulence that informs the lives of the wealthy. Don’t feel starved of recognition and fame. Just live, and count that all living has equal value in the end, and accomplishes the same purpose. I say that to myself while in the middle of yet another fifteen hours of sitting at this computer today because of poverty, and it makes me content.

What do YOU think?

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