But here’s what Older Self will not have the heart to say: some of the music you are now listening to—the CDs you play while you stare out the window and think about the five million ways your life might go—will be unbearable to listen to in twenty years. They will be unbearable not because they will sound dated and trite but because they will sound like the lining of your soul. They will take you straight back to the place you were in when you felt that anything could happen at any time, that your life was a huge room with a thousand doors, that your future was not only infinite but also elastic. They will be unbearable because they will remind you that at least half of the things you once planned for your future are now in the past and others got reabsorbed into your imagination before you could even think about acting on them. it will be as though you never thought of them in the first place, as if they were never meant to be anything more than passing thoughts you had while playing your stereo at night.
| Meghan Daum
I like to imagine most the in-between, the preparatory moments. The man in his bedroom, mid-afternoon, writing a hopeful inscription inside the sleeve of a book. Her, bounding up to the post office to send a letter across an ocean. Putting on makeup and fixing her hair before sauntering out. When you cut extra keys because you’re anticipating the future, a contingency pair of contact lenses incase of a night out when you don’t come home. Tidying your apartment for no one, but maybe someone. All the things we do quietly, like washing our hair and shaving our legs, selecting something in the grocery aisle — waiting for something more exciting to happen.
The most common word used when describing such experiences is ‘connection’ – we briefly shift beyond our separate self-absorbed egos, and feel deeply connected to other beings, or to all things. Some interpret these moments as an encounter with the divine, but not all do. The philosopher Bertrand Russell, for example, also had a ‘mystic moment’ when he suddenly felt filled with love for people on a London street.
We tend to view our surroundings only as far as they are relevant to ourselves and our time, but each space has so much more meaning to it than the tiny sliver each of us know. My apartment, which to me has always seemed mine, has spent most of its life housing people I don’t know, each of whom had their own familiar, personal feelings towards this space. The place where I drink my coffee, here in 2015, is also the site of untold breakups, parties, conversations, and arguments, possibly crimes, acts of betrayal or acts of redemption. People probably conceived children in here.
In every sense, it is a turning point—a turning of your mind’s awareness from a focus on your inner self to a focus on the outer world. Physicians and nurses know that a patient’s sudden interest in external things is the first sign that healing has begun. But do our surroundings, in turn, have an effect on us? Can the spaces around us help us to heal?