“Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs.”
“But Master Yoda says I should be mindful of the future.”
“But not at the expense of the moment. Be mindful of the living Force, my young Padawan.”
-an exchange between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn at the beginning of George Lucas’ Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
I know, I know, I probably shouldn’t be reverting to Star Wars when I need personal insight, but the concepts presented in this dialogue ring true no matter who says them, be it Jedi, Buddhist monk, Yogi or your personal life coach (I still can’t believe those exist!). In Peace Corps, as I have mentioned time ad infinitum, you think a lot. Recently my problem has been a bit different: when should I be thinking about?
There are times at site when I just need to get away. When I find myself unable to get to a new place physically, I let my mind wander down the many potential paths of my future. Should I got to grad school? If so, where? And for what? Should I join industry? If so, for a career, or just money? How much should pragmatism affect my decisions? How much should passion? Where do I want to live? How much time should I, “sacrifice,” early on doing something I am not happy doing if it means doing something great later in life.
Obi-Wan, and subsequently Yoda, would be happy with me. Being anxious about my future allows me to plan it out better, which potentially allows me to lead a better life. When planning for the future it is important to leave room for uncertainty, and for the potential of early discomfort in the name of future reward. Nothing is perfect and no future-planning will go off without a hitch, but there are more and more certainties in society that allow those of us living in the West to have a very future-centric mentality.
Qui-Gon would be angry however, because as my Peace Corps service goes on, I keep finding myself living more and more in the future, never mindful of the present. Sure, I eat, sleep, bathe and perform other necessities. No, I haven’t been hit by a car lazily crossing a busy street (I am very attentive in Mombasa, seeings how I want to become the worlds best Frogger player), but unless I am actively engaged in an activity in the present, my mind is not there. The downsides of such a state of mind are that it can be difficult to enjoy life in the here and now.
This is the the other edge of the double-edged sword that is the holiday month and part of the reason why I like daily routine. Daily routine allows the future-centric side of me to have little expectations to focus on that are still within the present. It’s like a nicotine patch: still getting the addiction-hit of forward thinking, but without the negative side-affects of complete daydreaming (such as absent-mindedness when walking around the city). It is also why I like spending time with my friends (including promoting them brownies): they remind me of the good things that are in the present.
Powered by ScribeFire.