Wednesday night was another book club. We read Christopher Benfey’s A Summer of Hummingbirds. We agreed across the board that it was a lyrically engaging and aesthetically enchanting, but based on a severely tenuous premise and lacking any kind of cohesive evidence. Mom cheered, “pressure to publish!” and I said it made me glad I wasn’t trying to be a professor anymore. (I spend too time bull-sh*ting in my personal life to do it as a full-time career.)
We also debated whether there was a valuable role in society for critics (other than those of us at book club, of course. For more on this, please see my review of Noel Carroll’s On Criticism in Popmatters.)
And then, we went around the table and everyone had to say something that they were looking forward to. Gulp. Because, well, times are tough. Frankly, it was kind of more depressing to watch people struggle to come up with stuff than it would been just to say, “Hey, I’m not looking forward to anything!” (Which one person–not me–finally did, and thus ending the conversation.)
But then, perhaps because I’m doing this yoga training that is all about the philosophy of embracing good and bad in every moment, I thought that maybe– it’s good not to look forward to anything. Why look forward when you can just chill here? So I present:
6 Reasons NOT to Look Forward
1. There’s Nothing To Look Foward To. Maybe I’m just stating the obvious here, but for most of us, the future is pretty damn uncertain. Do you like money? Too bad! No more Wall Street. (I don’t care what Warren Buffet says.) Do you like books? Sorry, Kiddo the publishing industry is nearly finito. Do you like thinking Earth is the center of the Universe? Watch out, because Life on Mars is not just a David Bowie song, any longer. My advice? Don’t look forward. It’s scary. Just look at what you’re doing now.
2. It’s More Awesome than You Think, RIGHT NOW. Today, the Times published an article about how beautiful summer-getaway Cape Cod can be in the middle of Winter. Yes! This very second! Stop wishing for Summer to come, you frivolous day-dreamer, you! Right now the snow and the calm has produced, “a wondrous sight on the highway near Plymouth: a stretch of five-story-high trees towering like long-limbed marionettes slathered in marshmallow cream.”
3. Being in Present Moment Will Change Your Brain For the Better. Today I wrote a story about believing in God can make you less afraid of the future. I mean, duh, because most accounts of Heaven sound even more enticing the trees in Cape Cod slathered in Marshmallow goo. Heaven is providing other stuff, probably like Emack and Bolio‘s ice cream to go with the Marshmallow goo, and perhaps an audience with JC himself while you ingest. Good times. But mindful meditation, staying in the present moment, also cures your anxiety just like religion. But it offers the added bonus of changing the structure of your brain for the better. Yum!
4. The Future Fluctuates With Your Mood. Sometimes, when something cool happens, like Maud Newton retweets my tweet, I think OH MY GOD I’m going to be a famous writer!!!!! But then I say the word “Twitter” a few times in my head and I realize how meaningless it all is. Sometimes the future looks good, sometimes it doesn’t. But if you just take a few minutes to look around you, you can at least be briefly reminded of cool things that are already in front of you (Cartesian skepticism aside, I like being able to count on owning a very moody, very dirty MacBook)
5. If You Look Forward, You Might Rush Through Something Important. And if you rush, you might make a proofreading mistake. Everybody hates copy-editing or grammer errors.
6. Looking Forward Is A Commitment. And Everyone in Their Right Mind Fears Commitment. I was talking to my Good Friend the other night, thinking about how great it is not be to Sig-Oths anymore. When we were sig-oths, we had The Future looming ahead of us, with requisite pressures and obligations. ICK! But now that we’re just Good Friends, well, usually all that’s ahead of us is a Bud and Vodka Soda, respectively. I look forward to someone telling me about anything that is better than Budweiser or Vodka.