An Eternal State of Anticipation

I’m currently home-alone in the fiancee’s home, waiting for her twice-a-month four-hour sentence at work to end. I’m also currently in two minds about whether the time I have alone is time to be savoured or time to be passed. Savoured because I’m alone, and can pretty much do what I’d like to do. Passed, because I’m alone, and have pretty much nothing I’d like to do.

I’d spent the better part of the week anticipating the long-weekend I’m currently “enjoying”. Now that that it’s here, I find it a little disappointing that it doesn’t seem to be bringing me the relaxation and freedom-from-worry/anxiety/stress and unadulterated bliss it had promised. Rather, I’m feeling a sort of dull dread in anticipation of the coming work week. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the promise of the weekend was really fulfilled in the days before the weekend, with the weekend itself giving me the feeling that its joyous qualities had been hollowed out.

I find that my relation to time is such that I’m always living a couple of days ahead of myself. In a typical week, Thursday feels to me a little like Saturday (Friday’s so close to Saturday it’s essentially Saturday), while Saturday feels like a Monday (in the same vein as Thursday, Satuday’s so close to Monday it’s almost like Monday). Time is relative… how can it be any other way?

The Man Who Killed His Daughter

I was read this passage (again, too good not to share) in the book Freedom Evolves, by Daniel Dennett, talking about how the absent mindedness of a father led to the death of his daughter. I had once thought quite a bit about the issue discussed here, and always came to the sort of thinking Dennett writes about here: that I can never know what exactly it is that I would or would not do, and therefore with any judgement call I have to make, I always take it with a scoop or two of salt.

I read in the newspaper recently about a young father who forgot to drop off his infant daughter at the day-care center on his way to work. She spent the day locked in his car in a hot parking lot, and in the evening on his way home when he stopped her at the day-care center to pick her up, he was toold, “You didn’t drop her off today.” He rushed out to his car to find her stilled strapped into her little car seat in the back, dead. If you can bear it, put yourself in this man’s shoes. When I do, I shudder; my heart aches at the thought of the unspeakable shame, the self-loathing, the regret beyond regret that this man must now be suffering. And as one who is notoriously absentminded, who readily gets lost in his own thoughts, I find it even more unsettling to ask myself: Could I ever do anything like that? Could I be that negligent with the lif of a child in my care? I replay the scene with many variations, imagining distractions — a fire engine racing by just as I am about to turn off to the day-care center, something on the radio reminding me of a problem I have to solve that day, and later, in the parking lot, a friend asking me for help as I get out of my car, or perhaps I drop some papers on the ground and have to pick them up. Could a series of such distractors pile up and bury my overriding project of getting my daughter safely to day care? Could I be so unlucky as to blunder into a situation where events conspired to bring out the very worst in me, exposing my weakness, and leading me down this despicable path? I am so thankful that nothing like this has yet confronted me, because I do not know that there are no circumstances in which I could do that this man did. Such things happen all the time. I know nothing more about this young father. It is conceivable that he is a callous and irresponsible human being, a villain who deserves to be despised by us all. But it is also conceivable that he’s basically a good person, a victim of cosmic bad luck. And, of course, the better person he is, the greater his remorse must now be. He must wonder if there is any honorable way to go on living. “I’m the guy who forgot his baby daughter and let her bake to death in his locked car. That’s who I am.”

A Man (Cat) of Few Words

I’m writing this at 6.30 in the morning — I didn’t wake up on my own accord, but was woken by my cat’s quack (if you know my cat, you’ll know that he’s like a feline Tom Waits, and always sounds like he has had a little too much to drink).

My cat is a cat of few words. He hardly meows (I suspect he’s a little embarrassed by his voice), and when he does you tend to sit up and listen, which was exactly what I had (reluctantly) done today. I looked into his eyes, and was bowled over by how much he reminded me of Puss in Boots of Shrek.

I had no choice but to go feed him. Stupid cat.

Be the Best You Can Be!

I was recently reading a personal development blog when I recalled the days not too long ago that I, too, had wanted to start my own personal development blog. Back then, I had wanted to be something along the lines of a “life coach” to people; I’d envisioned that I’d write self-improvement articles, give prep talks in schools to graduating students, and provide seminars to people seeking personal growth.

“Imagine that you could have anything you wanted in life,” I’d say, pausing a little to let that thought sink in, after which I’d add,“now imagine that the last statement was a self-evident truth, that you could have anything you want in life.”

“Now,” I’d then say, while casting sideways glances at anybody and nobody in particular, “stop imagining, and start knowing… because it is true.” My audience would get goosebumps and, truth be told, so would I.

But let’s get back to reality here. I just thought how great it would be to help people be the best they could be; I mean, what greater life purpose is there than to help others find their life purpose?

Along the way though, self-doubt crept in. Emboldened by books such as Fooled by Randomness and The Halo Effect, by Nassim Taleb and Phil Rosenzweig respectively– both of whom in their books wrote about the large role chance plays in our lives — self-doubt effectively made me reconsider my own role in empowering others find their purpose.

Occasionally I’d find myself going back to books of the typical “self-improvement” genre. For a while, I’d feel empowered and motivated, and feel like self-doubt made its way back out, only to realise a little later that many such books are based on faith more than anything else. Too many of these books are based more on faith than anything else, and even acclaimed books based on “research” such as Good to Great, which I enjoyed greatly, have not convinced me entirely — their research methods, let’s just say, are not entirely bullet-proof either.

The problem with what has happened (to me) has left me feeling rather confused. I’m stuck between a “be the best you can be” mode and a “let things be” mode, each of which returns to and leaves me on a rather cyclical basis, like the rising and falling of the tides. The only thing is, the tide of the “let things be” seems to be getting more often the older I get.