“Surveying the surging immensity of life.” – Nikolai Gogol
At first I thought this was going to be about being overwhelmed … overwhelmed by Life … in fact … by the ‘surging immensity of life.’
By the way … here is the full quote:
“I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life, to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone.”
Instead … I believe this is more about moments. How immense the sheer amount of moments which exist in life and how we view them.
I began thinking about moments rather than overwhelmed when I discovered this quote:
“The problem with being so perfectly of the moment is what to do when the moment passes … “- Ernest Greene
It is an unfortunate Life Truth that the surging immensity of life can be defined by the massive mundane drudgery of life.
The inevitable toil of individual moments.
Or maybe it can be more positively stated … it can be defined by fewer ‘so perfectly of the moment’ moments.
But it should never be <albeit we often do> defined by ‘what we do after the moment passes.’ That would suggest that we overlook the moment for what it was … just a moment. A moment to be savored … not to be replicated.
Rather than dwell on ‘remember the tears or the laughter’ type thoughts maybe it is easier to suggest we simply live our lives in a mix of extraordinary genius and incompetent naiveté.
If you believe that thought then perfectly of the moment is simply sheer dumb luck.
And if we are honest with ourselves … there are many more ‘dumb luck’ moments in our lives than we probably recognize.
Because we don’t know what to do when ‘a moment’ passes and we have to reenter the everyday drudgery type moments.
And we spend a lot of time and energy wondering why that moment was perfect and why we didn’t have another one <or more> instead of so quickly reentering the drudgery. In other words … we spend so much frickin’ time reflecting on ‘why’ we don’t invest enough time reflecting on ‘wow.’
Now. We don’t know why that moment was perfect for a variety of reasons … but mostly because nothing like what you’re about to do … actually exists.
The next moment isn’t really a reflection of anything that was … it is a creation of all dimensions <not to get too philosophical … but moments are not really linear … they are multidimensional … that which was … and is … and what is impacting that moment from without like being in an asteroid field>.
That means there is a randomness which can be unnerving.
Especially if we aren’t sure whether extraordinary genius or incompetent naiveté is going to rule the next moment.
There are no rulebooks <ignore the books … no book can truly outline the immensity of Life … or even the immensity of a small moment>.
I imagine all you can really do in a moment … if you permit it … is kind of allow your senses to connect with all the elements of the moment. And that connection is everything that surrounds you.
When it is aligned … it is perfection.
When it is not aligned … it is uncomfortably discordant.
Moments inevitably haunt and give hope. There’s a thought to ponder.
Life dissolves into these types of moments … sometimes even defining life.
And as soon as I type ‘define’ that suggests we want to make sense of it.
To define it in some way that can be replicated or explained.
Nuts to that <I say>.
How do you explain a blinding glimpse of extraordinary genius?
Or mind numbing incompetent naiveté?
Or even sheer dumb luck?
In this type of infiniteness … there is a surge of immensity.
But rather, just maybe, when you think about the immensity of moments … the good news isn’t that you aren’t overwhelmed but rather you recognize a truth.
That we are more than just what Richard Dawkins claims … “survival machines, blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”
We are human.
Not survival machines in which moments well defined become moments we seek to replicate blindly.
Instead we kind of blindly stumble along moment to moment.
That thought made me think of a thought I found from Pascal:
“When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity that lies before and after it, when I consider the little space I fill and I see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I rest frightened, and astonished, for there is no reason why I should be here rather than there. Why now rather than then?
Despite our stumbling along … Life is short.
And it becomes easy to become overwhelmed if you dwell on that … and the fact we don’t really know what we are doing most of the time.
I guess you could either:
(a) try to cram 20 pounds of Life into a 10 pound bag, or
(b) get stuck trying to decide how to maximize the shortness, or
(c) get stuck investing energy trying to define the perfect moment with the intent to go ahead and invest energy trying to replicate the perfect moment or
(d) get stuck trying to beat Life by trying to make it longer or
(e) make your head explode regretting every choice you didn’t make because … well … life is short and you missed the opportunity.
Anyone who tells you that you will never be overwhelmed by life’s moments <circumstances, responsibilities, concerns, etc.> is silly <if not lying>.
The trick is not be to overwhelmed by being overwhelmed. Settle yourself and still have some ability to manufacture something within the moment and enjoy the moments that … well … really work.
Going back to Gogol.
Nabokov suggested toward the end of Gogol’s life … as he faced writer’s block and struggles in Life that he had “lost the magic of creating something from nothing.”
Moments are magical because they are all about creating something from nothing. Creating something magical out of the day to day drudgery.
When you try too hard … nothing is created … well … at least certainly nothing magical.
Maybe we simply need to remember that despite our stumbling through Life we all have more than all of this thing called Life requires.
Take a moment.
Maybe take inventory of some of the adversity filled moments you’ve overcome in life as well as the ones which were perfectly perfect.
You will most likely find you are quite resilient.
You will find that you actually had ‘enough’ in the moments that counted … and even the ones that didn’t.
In just about every moment … every circumstance in life … we really do have more than is required to not only manage the moment but we tend to thrive in the moment.
Pert of feeling overwhelmed is probably driven by the fact we wished extraordinary genius would rise up more often and incompetent naiveté would stay away more often.
All of this makes Life pretty immense. Immensely confoundingly spectacular in its joy, grief, disappointment and satisfaction.
Maybe I am suggesting people should embrace the overwhelmedness <I made up that word>.
Embrace your genius and incompetence.
Try to experience all of it. Not some watered-down version.
Don’t live a half-assed life.
Make it spectacular.
Gogol ends this thought in his writings … ‘what a dreary world we live in, gentlemen.’
I don’t agree.
But I can certainly see how if you become overwhelmed by the surging immensity of life … well … I guess it can become a dreary world.
However … if you ignore the overwhelmedness and embrace the immensity?
Embrace the wide open spaces?
Embrace the seemingly random genius and incompetence?
It can be pretty spectacular.
Personally I have come to accept the feeling of not necessarily knowing where I am going all the time as well as I am not always going to know the right thing to do each and every moment.
And in some warped way I kind of love it.
It’s kind of like riding the surge in the immensity of life.
Sometimes feeling sort of suspended in space with no landing in sight <oh … but what a frickin’ view>.
I have embraced that if I am riding this surge of Life, and not being overwhelmed, I never really will drown.
And, I also assume, if you are lucky … really lucky … this immense Life will never be dreary.
In the end?
If you understand, and believe, that we inevitably live Life all the same way:
… “attack everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.” – Douglas Adams
Surveying the immensity of life ain’t such a bad thing.
In Life we are all naively incompetent.
In Life we all implement some extraordinary genius.
And therein lies Life as we know it.