“Always hold fast to the present. Every situation, indeed every moment, is of infinite value, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe*
Not long ago , wandering the virtual universe, I came across a short video that reproduced part of an interview conducted by Charlie Rose with Bill Murray. In it, Rose asked him: “Tell me what it is that you want, that you don’t have”. After taking a couple of seconds to collect his thoughts, Murray offered a profound and unexpected answer: "I’d like to be more consistently here... I’d just like to really see how long I could last as being really here."
While his answer doesn't end there, this is the core of the idea that he describes. One-of-a-kind reflection, that left me no choice but to think about it.
Connected to everything… and to nothing.
News from here and there. Politics, sports, fashion, and cinema. Gossip, scandals, rumors, and lies. Fights, accusations, trials, and wars. The vastness of the world fits in the palm of our hand, and a mere gesture of our index finger brings us closer to any "what", "when", "how" or "why". Connection and access to almost everything occurs at the speed of thought. And I say "almost", because we lack the bridges and roads to what really matters in our day to day. We are so connected that we have destroyed, or neglected, all ties to what makes us human.
When was the last time you actually felt "here", "present", when looking in the mirror? Who did you see in that reflection? Can you remember the last time that, during a conversation, you gave a loved one your undivided attention?
When was the last time you looked around you, and observed what was there to be seen? When was the last occasion that, instead of talking, you listened, just smiled back, or enjoyed the silence without trying to fill it?
In these times, it seems that a “live” conversation has lost its former charm. The person we text now, while physically being with someone else, is the same person we’ll ignore when being face to face.
We disappear while being disconnected, desperately trying to be everywhere. We have become invisible in our quest to be seen, and absent in our race toward ubiquity.
Our reality, our whole life, is a puzzle, made from pieces that form a whole. It is a serious mistake not to notice the double nature of these pieces ... Because every piece, voice, body, aroma, place, and memory, influence its surroundings in at least two ways: with its presence, and with its absence. Full or empty, that space is there, occupied or available. Whatever once affected us by being there, today influences our life with its absence. That emptiness can get heavy ... and it weighs even more when we discover it suddenly. An image or a memory of a past that will not return, hurts; but one of a past in which we chose not to be, hurts even more.
Stop over-connecting to start existing
Beyond the damage that being physically, but not mentally, present causes in us and in our environment, the unrelenting, constant exposure to so many opinions, disputes, fights, confrontations, and discords, generates a state of perpetual stress in our brain. The hatred, contempt and resentment that permeates most corners of social media channels, function as fuel for our depression and anxiety, placing us in a constant state of anguish and frustration. Personally, I have had to stop watching the news or "follow" people on social media, and keep a very low profile. Being exposed to mountains of complaints, criticism, stupid opinions, and ignorant statements brought me to a breaking point where I had to say "no more." And all of this, without being a big consumer of social media. Still, I had to disconnect in order to exist, to be who I really am, and to be "here." I needed to get away from the harmful “online alternate reality" and worry only about those things I found uplifting and inspiring.
I am not a technology detractor. I benefit from it on a daily basis and my life has been affected in many positive ways by its presence and progress. But I can't exist with a computer in my hand all the time. I refuse to have a conversation while allowing a screen to steal the attention from my interlocutor. I want to be here.
This is the only life we have
And this is the only moment that belongs to us with certainty.
I want to be in this moment. I want to be present and be my own presence. I want to look in the mirror and find myself. I want to see myself as genuine and true, not as a copy, or a cheap a replacement.
When was the last time you saw yourself? How long has it been since you turned off all distractions, and focused on the things that, long ago, made you love your life? When was the last time you listened, instead of just hearing? And when was the last chance that, in the midst of depression and anxiety, you took a minute to remember how your life was like before the crazy pace of the immediate, and the desperation of not missing anything overpowered you?
In short: how long has it been since you felt like you?
Our mental health and, to a certain extent, that of those who love and surround us, urgently need our real, not tacit, presence. We need to disconnect. We desperately need it. It is useless to continue spreading out our branches if our roots lack depth. It is those roots that will sustain us in the storm, against the winds that will try to tear us from the ground.
It is time to connect with what matters and gives life. It is time to stop and savor our existence, bittersweet as it may be.
Take care of your emotional health by getting away from everything harmful and nourishing with what makes you long to be alive. It will not necessarily be easy but, I promise you, you'll see substantial changes really soon.
Regardless of your beliefs, this is the only life you have in your hands today.
Live it as such.
* Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Aug. 28, 1749 – Mar. 22, 1832), was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, and critic.