Cesar Pavese said that “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” As simple and obvious as this statement sounds, it has had a profound effect on the way I view and live my life.
Since my early twenties, I have struggled with depression – something that may be obvious to the people around me, but nonetheless, something I have only shared and discussed with my wife. After much introspection – and even more drugs, therapy, suicidal thoughts, and philosophical explorations – I’ve come to appreciate and, more importantly, use Pavese’s powerful insight.
In short, I believe life is about moments. I believe searching for, recognizing, and appreciating simple, joyful moments is essential for my psychological and emotional well-being. More importantly, my happiness (and indeed my sanity), relies upon giving these moments their proper weighting in my existential calculus. In the past I would ruminate for hours on the injustices of life, and not give a thought to simple, yet wonderful, daily occurrences – like a laugh with friends, the way my wife’s smile lights up a room, a beautiful song, or the peaceful hum of crickets on a late summer night. Yes, suffering and tragedy deserve some of my psychic and emotional energy, but so do joyful moments. And it has taken me nearly 40 years to realize that using moments – simple, peaceful, joyful moments – to balance some harsh realities of life is essential for my very existence.
I would like to tell you that this fairly simple insight came during a flash of transcendental clarity. Or perhaps it would be more compelling if I said that my beliefs were forged in the furnace of personal adversity or borne of tragedy, but this is not the case. I am simply a lucky, healthy, privileged, product of upper-middle class America who formed his beliefs over the course of a very common life. I say this not to lessen the importance of my beliefs, but rather because I believe that this is the way most people come to terms with their lives and form their philosophies – that is, they are the products of many ordinary experiences and not, necessarily, single, life-changing events.
As a simple fact of life, I believe I will inevitably face physical, emotional, and psychological suffering. But on a daily basis I will also encounter moments of brilliance, of charity, of peace, and of passion. I believe life is about using these moments to counterbalance some of life’s more disturbing aspects. I believe life is about searching out these moments, and consistent with Thoreau, sucking the marrow of life from them so that they can be used to restore psychic and emotional balance. Camus said that judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. So, is life worth living? I don’t know, but I do know that some moments are worth living, and that has made all the difference.
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