- You know how to speak cleverly, my friend. Be on your guard against too much cleverness.
The Buddha to Siddhartha, Siddhartha
- How's that working out for you?
- Being clever.
Tyler Durden to Edward Norton, Fight Club
Brought to you because I am reading Siddartha and, like the poor, Fight Club will always be with us.
I have been defeated many times by an excess of cleverness. Just because it sounds good doesn't mean it's true. Just because I'm smart enough to get my way doesn't mean I always should.
One of the most affecting ideas in Siddhartha is about time moving like a river. I have heard the sentiment before, even in some of my favourite books (Dalva and Sometimes A Great Notion spring to mind -- Einstein's Dreams plays with the concept through stories about alternate time flows) but either this book is wiser, or more accessible, or I have somehow grown more open to the idea. It altered my brain wiring to read it this time; like tripping on acid, it changed my whole perspective on shit. In case you too are ready to hear it, I will ineloquently recap: Time does not exist -- our past, future and present are here with us now, like the river water which is always flowing from its source, always emptying into the ocean, and always rushing past you as you stand rooted on the bank.
In high school, I moved away and then broke up with my first love, and he told me recently that he had to treat it as a death. How do you treat a death? I treat it the same way I treat travelling, and break-ups. I miss people but I hold them in my heart -- our memories, their voice, their face. I imagine that they are always with me. Sometimes I try to figure out what they would say and do if they were here. It's actually really funny to call up a friend and recap an imaginary conversation you had with them. Well, either funny or disturbing, depending on which party you are.
I always carry my past with me. In some ways it is always recurring -- every time I'm reminded of a painful experience, it hurts me again. All that changes is how I react and reconcile it with who I am now. Every time I remember something happy, I am happy again, though maybe the happiness is changed, made richer by things I've learned, made bittersweet by the loss of that person, that place.
The past will never hold itself static for us. Our mistakes do not define us. Maybe some of our successes were defeats. We have done everything the right way and we have done everything wrong. Now, does it matter?
When we are old and future time seems short, you will still be tall and strong and kissing me on my dark doorstep; you will still be courting me and cheating on me and smiling at our baby; you will still be the child your mother told me about. You will still be with all your old lovers, and I will still be with mine. We will have everything we ever had. Now, can we plan it?
Now we are in orbit and we are adrift. Now you are still in love with her and you are not. Now we are together and apart. Now I know the woman I want to be and I know that I will always want to be more than I am. Now, what is right?
You will make your future, it is true, but so will others. Like Schrodinger's cat living and dying, all futures are happening right now. What we do with our incomplete information, our imperfect memories, our limited forethought, will land us in one future or another. It will also put our pasts in a new light. And hopefully it will satisfy us now. But the only knowable part is what is in you -- what do you need, what is just? Now it is time to make the future, but it is not time to plan. It is not time to wait. When we have all the time in the world, and when there is no such thing as time, there is no sense in planning, no sense in waiting. One day I will see how I got to this place, I will see what I did well and how I failed. One day I will miss you and I will hold you. One day I will regret and I will hope and I will muse and, yes, I will plan my fool's errands. That day is now.