Life is what happens to you whilst you’re busy making other plans
22nd June 2020
I wonder what your plans included this year? Mine involved a visit to the How the Light Gets in (reference Leonard Cohen) festival at Hay on Wye, a holiday to Greece and several significant birthday parties, none of which have or will happen. It seems ‘life’ has taken an altogether different turn, scuppering all the best laid plans that any of us had. Every now and then I ask myself ‘if I had only known last year that this would happen’….well I wouldn’t have believed it and gone on with my plans, imagining that nothing possibly could change them.
And so we have had to adapt, as life happens to us in unplanned ways. Perhaps even as a country, if we hadn’t all been so busy making plans with the focus of our attention elsewhere (Brexit?), we may have been more aware of what life had in store for us. Of course we cannot know for certain.
What is unusual about our present circumstance is that it has happened to all of us at the same time even if for some it has been far more difficult than for others. Nevertheless we have all experienced the curtailing of our normal freedoms but on a more positive note, this has almost totally cured us of the 21st century anxiety of FOMO ( fear of missing out). We are all collectively missing out! According to Svend Brinkmann (The Joy of Missing Out) there are upsides to this as we have the opportunity to learn to live more simply, appreciate what we have and time to focus on what is more significant than the endless pursuit of our desires and the trivial. It also gives us the possibility to ‘Do less, more thoroughly’ which was the advice the anthropologist Harry Wolcott used to give to his PhD students.
What is also surprising is how lockdown has brought a more acute observation of things that happen day to day which otherwise we might have missed. All too frequently we do miss things as we contemplate the future and ruminate on the past. In the wise words of Grand Master Oogway to Po Ping (Kung Foo Panda), “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift––that is why it is called the present.”
Wise words indeed and not entirely to be attributed to Grand Master Oogway, but words which remind us that we can really only be certain of the present and so viewing it as a gift can make it something to be treasured.
All of us have had to adapt to focussing on the day in hand and opening our eyes to those things often overlooked. Many have continued to find consolation in nature and being able to be fully present to observe for the first time, the full beauty and drama of seasonal changes. So perhaps as we gradually emerge from lockdown we might continue to engage more fully in the present, so that we don’t spend all our time planning for a future that may not be altogether certain and miss out on the life to be lived right now.