On Sunday night, while the rest of the world was watching Super Bowl XLVII, I was roasting sweet potatoes and turnips and listening to Peggy Lee on a crackly AM radio station from Newburyport, Massachusetts. WNBP simulcasts on FM, too, but I like listening to music from the past with a little static. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the football game because the Patriots weren’t playing; I logged into Facebook and it was almost like being there.
Earlier in the day, someone had shared the following pithy precept:
“If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past.
If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future.
If you’re happy, you’re living in the present.”
I’ve heard other people express it this way:
“If you’ve got one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you’re BLEEP-ing all over today.”
I stopped short in my tracks because it was the second time in one day that something had provoked me to think about my relationship with the past. Being a pensive person, I asked myself “are these maxims true?” and before I knew it, I was asking myself “would I sleep better at night if I lived in the present instead of the past and the future?”
Knowing that pedestrian pursuits have always helped me to figure out puzzling problems, I put my boots on and took a walk. I headed south and found myself at the Hampton Beach Casino. Here and there were the remaining remnants of the “Penguin Plunge.” Every February, hundreds of brave and possibly crazy people jump into the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for Special Olympics; at one time in my life, I thought such purifying acts might have a penitential effect on me. I’ve since reconsidered.
One of the plunging penguins had lost a princess tiara. I brought it home and put it on my pretend puppy. A friend from the past had given it to me during my first lonely days in Hampton and it sits on my bed with another stuffed animal from childhood.
Although I was plodding purposefully along the sidewalk, I had not solved the problem of living in the past and worrying about the future. Why is it that the past seems more peaceful to me than the present and the future? Does anyone really want to contemplate Peak Oil? Philosophizing left me wondering if I would be happier if I just lived in the present; there is a certain pain involved in pursuing something impossible from the past and perseverating about something anxiety-producing about the future. Pain leads to all manner of problems.
C.S. Lewis wrote a book about it.
My thoughts rambled to the last time I was at the Amtrak station in Exeter; I noticed a car with the vanity plate “Amtrak.” The vehicle also had a bumper sticker which said “my other car is the Downeaster.” Maybe the vehicle’s owner was a Train Riders Northeast “host” who rides on the train as a goodwill ambassador for passenger rail service. I vaguely remember when this organization formed in 1989. Many people laughed at them and said things like “go ride your pioneer wagons in some theme park, you Dark Ages Luddites! The future is in George Jetson flying cars; we’ll have none of your trains!”
They persevered; I’m glad they weren’t put off by their pessimistic detractors. I had the most peaceful commute to Boston recently thanks to their efforts and I was able to finish my seed order while the train plodded along like a pterodactyl.
I not sure why I’m more placid romanticizing the past instead of living in the present; maybe it’s my personality.
The one thing I can be absolutely positive about…I know exactly where Uncle Bob is going to be when it’s time to plant my peas around St. Patrick’s Day. He’ll be right there on Pleasant Street, ready to help me put up my pea trellis. He may think growing peas isn’t worth the time involved, but he’ll patiently help me anyway; just like he’s always done in the past and will do in the future.
I wonder why so many of the words that occur during philosophical pondering start with the letter “P?” I could ask Uncle Bob, but I’m afraid he might just say “you think too much.”