Living In the Moment or For the Moment?
On a recent trip to the South Island, we picked up a hitchhiker. He was a young guy from Germany who was taking a year off between high school and college and spending six months in NZ. His budget was such that he had to rely on hitching for transport and he was actively seeking out the lowest cost accommodation wherever he stayed.
Nevertheless, he informed us, he had spent a sizeable amount of his budget on extreme sports such as sky diving and bungy jumping. His strategy confused me. Why spend big bucks for an experience you measure in seconds when you are on such a tight budget?
His response to the question—and I know this because I asked—is that he’d always wanted to come to NZ and he never knew when he’d be back so he had to “live for the moment.”
In fact several extreme sport activities were being marketed as “Live for the moment,” and that seemed to be the mantra for the tourists. So I had to stop and think when I saw a poster in a shop that had a quote attributed to Mother Teresa which said “Be Happy in the Moment. That’s Enough. Each Moment Is All We Need, Not More.”
That got me thinking – when we live for the moment do we necessarily live in the moment?
I started to think that the universe was trying to tell me something when a few days later I decided to live for the moment and do a (mildly) extreme sport. Like the hitchhiker, I didn’t know if or when I’d be back this way so why not indulge in the experience.
It’s always highly amusing when I do touristy things like that because extreme sport attractions are operated by, and marketed to, an entirely different demographic from mine. The twentysomething Alpha males who operate those attractions always size me up with a look and tone of voice that say they’re not sure if I’m crazy, confused, or just hopelessly uncool. Or maybe the Undercover Boss so they better be nice to me.
As I was being strapped into the (alarmingly well worn) harness that would prevent me from tumbling hundreds of feet as I “flew” over a raging river, I was definitely not “in the moment,” because I was wondering why all those straps were necessary and what might happen if one of them failed. But as soon as the ground man told me “launch when ready,” I was totally “in the moment.” I savoured the sensations and the sights. I didn’t think of anything but how good I felt and how amazing the view and the sounds and the feelings were.
Because it was a composite of sensory experiences, it was impossible to describe the ride to other people when I landed. I didn’t even try. To do the stunt I’d just paid more than the price of a nice dinner in a good restaurant. Was it worth it? Yes! It was a fantastically unique and amazing experience and I was totally immersed in it.
I had another interesting experience a couple of days later while on a harbor nature cruise in which it was possible to see dolphins and seals and penguins. I was definitely not “in the moment” on that trip. You sail around and the captain tells you where you will see dolphins and seals and penguins. That is a signal to try to take as many pictures as you can as quickly as possible because catching a dolphin jumping out of the water is really hard, even if it is right next to you.
The cruise was very enjoyable and interesting. And we saw lots of dolphins and other marine life. But instead of being immersed in the actual experience of seeing birds and animals in their natural environment, I was immersed in taking photographs of the experience.
Would I have enjoyed the cruise more if I hadn’t been focusing so much on trying to get good pictures—and as you can see, largely failing?
I believe true enjoyment lies in experiencing and being in the moment, but there is also much enjoyment derived in the remembering the moment later.
Which then raises the question—what if I had been stricken with amnesia after the two experiences I described.
While doing the ‘superman’ ride, I had no camera on me and with no documentary proof of my thrilling sensory experience, was it money well spent if I can no longer remember the experience?
But since I have pictures of the dolphins to “remind” me of the fun cruise, would I be happier about having spent the money?
What do you think?