Yesterday while having dental work done, it occurred to me how few people in this world actually live and work in the moment.
So let me describe the scene yesterday. The dentist I visit is a wonderful Muslim woman with great taste in music. She has her iPhone playlist going all the time and it might as well be my playlist. Every single song I’ve heard on Sirius XM The Loft, or The Spectrum or some other recent source. She is facile and communicative.
Her dental assistant was standing in for another woman who is pregnant and about to deliver. So the two of them collaborated over me, discussing tools and methods. There was genuine learning and cooperation being exchanged. They were fascinated by a new tool that was used to set the composite in new crown. The light tool had a couple new features on it. It was interesting to hear them work through that process.
It took two hours to complete the work. Some dental work by a prior dentist had broken off down by the gum line. They cleaned all that up and went through the work to create a new bite and fashion a new tooth.
They were working in the moment. And I admired their work.
The world we live in
Most of us in this world do not work like that. The results of our labors are typically deferred somehow. In the field of marketing where I work, you can sometimes wait weeks for your work to appear on a new website, or for results to come in from your A/B email testing.
At other times, the effects are more immediate. Sometimes I get to be on-site in marketing or public relations efforts where you see and meet customers. It’s a valuable experience.
Yet so many of us work in this virtual world where the people with whom we’re trying to connect are remote or distant. Even our social lives are tests of connection. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. On and on. You see the pain of this disconnect when people post pleading messages on their Facebook pages. You’ve likely seen them…”This is a test to see who reads my posts?” they typically begin…
Living in the moment
Yet there’s one place in this world where people really do live in the moment. When we run, ride or swim, there is a direct connection with the world. We can feel our footsteps. Hear our breathing. Witness the roll of tires on road. Feel the water.
Yet there are also times when I’ll be riding along on my bike at 20 mph and look up to watch what feels like a dream. It’s hard to collect even a moment’s tangible connection in those moments. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Or perhaps not.
That is the challenge. The irreversibility of time is a reality. It’s an existential truth. Our minds still float around this world inside our heads. We live and breathe and die this way. So the fact of our activities in endurance sports is an important connection It’s a sign that we are both engaging with the world in real time and at the same time, creating living memories. The verbal exchanges we have with our partners or friends during this process is vital to our sense of meaning. Yet so is not talking. We revel in the rap of footsteps as we run. The whirr of tires on
So the fact of our activities in endurance sports is an important connection. It’s a sign that we are both engaging with the world in real time and at the same time, creating living memories. The verbal exchanges we have with our partners or friends during this process is vital to our sense of meaning. Yet so is not talking. We revel in the rap of footsteps as we run. The whirr of tires on tarmac, and the temporary shiver of fear when crossing tarsnakes on a hot day. The roar of bubbles in our ears and the exhalation of even more bubbles as we breathe. These are your moments.
And when you compete, these sensations are enhanced and heightened. This is the day for which you’ve trained. The world around you becomes a fauvism of things you’ll pass and people you see. Friends break through with cheering voices. Your Sherpa with your bag of gear meets and cheers you along the way. This is your moment.
When the event is done and you wind down from the pressing fatigue and breathlessness of hard effort, your mind takes on a different chemical makeup. This is true in both training and racing. Our minds crave this kind of engagement. It strokes away depression and anxiety even while it challenges our ability to tolerate physical and even emotional pain. This is the yin and yang of everyday existence, compressed. This is your moment.
And when you achieve your goal, there is no better satisfaction than finishing. Even when you miss your goal, you have gone out and tried. And that’s a might better than those who never do.
So we seek these experiences because they are real. And despite all the fakery alive in the world today, and false people telling you they have your back over this or that political cause, there is no substitute for going out there and finding out what feels real on your own. This is your moment. Live it well.