Have Yourself a Sensible Chuckle or Two
All things considered, it’s strange how bad the human brain is at dealing with time. We’re reminded again every day, and yet the fact that things change, that people change, and that in the future we will be expected to respond to entirely new, unprecedented circumstances and situations… we just can’t hold onto it.
When we’re in pain, we look ahead and can see nothing but more pain. When we’re in love, we look ahead and can’t even envision problems — we see only our current bliss. Our meat prisons are lined with mirrors, not windows — we rarely see the real world unless we make a specific, concerted effort to look at it. Mostly we see ourselves, as we currently are, in the world we imagine to exist, whether we’ve built ourselves a heaven or a hell.
We’re like Bilbo, climbing a tree in Mirkwood to report, “the forest goes all the way to the horizon in every direction! Limitless! Endless!” Bilbo despairs, never realizing that this tree is at the bottom of a valley, meaning that all he can see is the forest he’s in. Change is just over the horizon, but his current state artificially limits how far he can see.
Maybe that’s why we keep teaching each other this lesson in different words: “You can’t step into the same river twice.” “Time heals all wounds.” “Man plans, and God laughs.” We say it over and over, and it never sinks in that tomorrow, the state of this meatsack you’re in and the muddy ball you’re on will be different from how it is now. There will be different chemicals pinging around in your body, different weather altering events, different pressures we can’t even imagine. The one thing we can absolutely, positively guarantee about the future is that something will change.
Our brains don’t really get change when it happens that slowly, though. People talk about waking up one day to a realization, an epiphany — “suddenly everything was different!” — and don’t realize that what they’re describing is the final, most obvious step of a ladder they’ve been climbing for months. We devalue our small accomplishments and our incremental progress, we don’t even see those things, don’t write them to memory, and so when they actually do accrue into something big…