An ad hoc guide to living by the moment

(In related news: The Atlantic has my brainwaves down pat: “Why You Should Say ‘Hello’ to Strangers on the Street.” Props.)

And here’s the part where I give you a philosophic attempt at steam-of-consciousness eloquence after being mentally muddled.

And it’s coming at the perfect time because I’m about to embark on a new step in my life. It’s extremely nerve-wracking — as I have described to a confused but helpful few dear to me — but it is so exciting. It’s exciting because I have a great opportunity and I’ve realized the gravity of it. But it’s also exciting because I’m so nervous, so emotional. It’s like my mind is working at the speed of a bullet train. Constantly.

(So if I ever say that I’m entirely rational and unemotional, don’t believe me. It’s not true and never will be.)

And I can finally grasp my thoughts.

I experienced a moment today that impacted me wholeheartedly. Not even because it changed my perspective. But because, for the first time, I can put into words what I’ve been thinking about for a while. Something that’s been nagging at me.

So here you go.

Moments are precious.

(Okay, bad start. Keep reading. Plz. Thx.)

Whenever someone does something for you — anything, really — remember what that little gesture means and always make it a mission to do that same for someone else in turn. Like a chain of good things. Of good moments.

I’m serious. I mean it.

Someone can smile at you with no intention other than a sense of decency. Someone can hold open a door for you, or laugh instead of groan when neither of you can decide which way to walk around each other.

Or maybe a friend gives you a glance that you immediately understand. Or you start laughing and can’t stop when you’re sitting next to someone who kind of thinks you’re crazy, but also totally understands because they’ve done the same thing before.

Maybe they’re having a good day. Maybe they’re having a bad day and want to make it better. Maybe they’ve had this crazy revelation that I’m having right now. Maybe they don’t really think about it. Or maybe it’s just what they do.

Yeah, moments can seem really insignificant in the greater picture of the day. But it’s important to reverse that perspective.

Even if you return the smile or say ‘thank you’ or laugh, and even if you forget to smile because you’re distracted and then get distressed because you might have inadvertently seemed like a terribly mean person and ruined someone’s day, take that moment and use it.

Because when you share a moment with a complete stranger (or a long-time friend) that is so minute and fleeting, there is a sanctity in knowing that it is possible to we, as humans, can make a tiny little impact on each other by simply acknowledging that we exist and we need to be cared for even in the most mundane times of our day.

In these moments you are who you’ve ever been, who you’ve ever wanted to be. Who you don’t want to be. And who you find yourself to be. They are a test of spontaneity, a crisis of being. When someone is courteous to you not in a strictly chivalrous manner, but in a way that adds a little more value to interaction, do the same for someone else. Do it. Seriously. Moments come from anywhere and everywhere. A phone call. A dropped receipt. A comment censored by second thought. A comment made out of spontaneity. A moment of awareness, of mutual agreement. And how we act is so crucial.

People are frightening. Interacting with them can be even more so. But we are all here, all breathing, all moving, all loving, all hurting, all feeling. Our hearts beating, pumping. Our minds move in completely different ways and our feet take different paths. But our hearts beat at a similar pace and the people in our life impact us in similar ways.

Sometimes I feel a connection to people, especially in these moments when I can recognize something in someone: courtesy, or humor. And because of that, I am not afraid. We cannot be afraid of each other. But if we feel fear, that’s okay. Fear is one of the most raw emotions we feel, like love, or disappointment. It’s a rawness that burns our insides and renders us immobile, stiff, numb.

There’s a similar rawness to every moment we experience. A rawness that comes from the fact that we don’t really know what will happen. How will the other person react? What do I do? It’s a raw instance that becomes telling of how we act and who we are. Our role, then, is that of facilitator, a facilitator of response.

Moments reflect our life, as a matter of feeling. But they are more; they are about what we do with that feeling.

What will you do? What will you do in this moment?

There are 86,400 seconds in a day. What will you do with them?

And when you find yourself in these moments where your seconds and someone else’s seconds collide, it is worth it, for once, be a person among people, be a human among humans, be a part of a system, a part that has more value than can be grasped, a part that can keep the system functioning a little bit smoother than it was before.

A bird’s wings cannot let a bird fly without feathers. A shoe cannot stay together without threads. A body cannot function without organs, without a spine. A clock cannot tick without its gears. So life cannot move without moments.

But it is one thing to act in every moment. It is another to simply be, or become, in a moment.

So that’s just it. Do and don’t be afraid. Feel for people. But don’t just do or feel. You must be.

Be a moment worth remembering.

(…end scene.)

“The creation of a single world comes from a huge number of fragments and chaos.” – Hayao Miyazaki