>Can Anyone Spare A Time Machine?

>Summer is almost over. For college students fall semester will begin by the end of third week of August and irrespective of the weather that pretty much marks the end of the longest holiday season of the year. Personally, this summer was not as bad as the last one – I have a job now – but the usual feeling of loss when summer winds up cannot be found anymore. Sure, when in school and college summer meant a well deserved long break from the regular classroom – classwork routine, which in turn meant lots and lots of leisure time leading to the coveted eat-watch TV-sleep routine. Now there are no such routines and the change of seasons mean increasingly little to very little of any significance. Come to think of it, it is nothing but one big continuous cycle of a set of uninspiring activities stuck in permanent playback mode and a broken stop switch. There are no summer vacations when you are at work. Yes, there are vacation-hours available but, honestly, who would like spend all of their 10 paid vacation days in one shot and then live with the sore truth that there are NO MORE VACATIONS for the rest of the fiscal year. It’s a different story if you are congressmen or senator. You get two months paid vacation split into a couple of two and a four week segments every year while an average American worker, whom the elected officials supposedly represent, gets 10 days sans weekends. Both houses of US senate are in vacation right now – the whole month of August; somehow taking a time out during a wild orgy of health crisis, energy crisis, gay rights, environmental protection and economy seems immoral.
But then again, I wouldn’t be spending time typing a blog if I was that lucky now would i? This is a whole different world for us not-rich people. Summer has always been about kids although it doesn’t look like it anymore with all the Wiis, Playstations and Global Warming. Summer vacations generally meant a long wait followed by fun filled theme park or zoo visit and then a small lull in the proceedings and finishing up with a huge celebration of holidays usually spent in one relative’s house after another until the much dreaded back to school week. As you get older the theme parks and zoos get familiar a.k.a less attractive to visit and then there are exams. Exams, months into the future, for which you need to spend the present, a lot of it, to prepare so that the mostly unpredictable future might bring better days. Even after my semi-independence, won after moving to the US of A, the pawning of present day happiness for the alleged peace of mind in the future continued as I juggled various routines like working on my master’s degree, conducting classes for my teaching assistance duties, working part time at the cafeteria and computer labs and other domestic chores. At the same time the most appropriate years of my life for revered student activities like parties, girls, weekend binges and associated hangovers silently eroded away. Now inside the working class population I expect that alleged future to be here, and if it is, I have to say, I am not impressed. I look around and I can say the same deal for any of my friends or their friends whom I know of. It seems like all of us are stuck doing something for the future, ignoring the present. But the present has feelings too.
I will admit; the future is never now. It’s always later and hence you cannot discount the fact the ‘later’ can bring a better ‘now’. But then again you can never really know whats going to happen later. You can hope, wish or do a probabilistic speculation about the events that might follow the present, but ‘now’ exists very briefly in one form constantly changing its look and character – much like my opinions– seamlessly switching between ‘is’, ‘was’ and ‘will’. Then there is that argument that, much like the present, we also want things in the future, like that perfect house or that awesome car or even those accrued vacation hours and to get those you have to sacrifice pleasures of the present. And it is probably the most valid and practical one. The reason I eat my retail store frozen veggie burgers for lunch everyday is that, put blatantly, someday I will be able to afford the best variety of food in the best restaurants in the best cities without having to worry about any personal fiscal deficit. And there is nothing wrong with that. But the down side is the loss of moments that can be lived right now. Common wisdom states that most happiness is extracted from life by living in the moment. I can save for that great meal later, but I am hungry right now for that chicken kabob and I can experience the outcome of my action right now rather than hoping for a ‘two in the bush’ kind of deal. Even probable future brings randomness like keeping the job for certain time or unexpected expenses out of family and children, so even predictable future is not so predictable. Worst of all, a moment missed now is a moment lost forever and so even if the future brings better instances, it cannot bring back the lost ones. Whats the point of being ascetically responsible in your 20s if it means you can only afford that Mercedes convertible in your fifties? When you are running against time the chances of catching up to those sacrificed desires are next to nothing and it’s a sad deal. So how is it possible to sacrifice the present pleasures for the benefit of future rewards and still manage to live in the present in a way that makes life worth living?
The answer lies, as it often does in most of life’s issues, at the center. Apparently it is not the size or cost of the desired things that makes us feel happy but it is the urgency and frequency of obtaining them. Our mind is so well used to our social ways of life that it does a great job of remembering good things over bad things and if you provide a consistent diet of happiness to it, no matter how small, it can maintain a relatively constant level of satisfaction. And the keywords are ‘small’ and ‘consistent’. Consider our brain as a small child. Serve its simple short time needs and you could keep it satisfied for a long time.
Yes, we need to sacrifice a good number of present pleasures in order to build the future we want, but along the way we also need to make sure that we treat ourselves with small cravings here and there that don’t blow a hole into our future plans. Remember that craving for the chocolate cheese cake that you sooo wanted last time when you were at the retail store but skipped because you were watching your weight, or how about that nice dress at the mall you really really wanted but skipped because it was a few bucks more than your budget. Your mind remembers these things and had you indulged yourself in those little things then the next time for sacrificing a desire comes along, it will be much easier to make the right choice. But the focus must still be in the center such that the bigger picture of the future is still on track. In other words chocolate cake once in while is good but if you see it in your every monthly bill, it’s bad. Serve yourself responsibly more often, and then the sacrifice of bigger stuff won’t even appear as a sacrifice since your mind is already happy about the last small indulgence. These little desires that pop up in our minds from nowhere that seem to be insignificant in the big picture may prove to be very effective in the long run by keeping us happy and thus helping us get more out of life.
I recently read an article that summarized that a scientific study has concluded that our will power is like a muscle that gets tired on use, like actual muscles in our body, and it needs to take a break as well. So catch a break and give it a rest. Do things not-the-perfect-way once every now and then. There will be a lot of compromises in the future so lets make them a bit easier by living the present once in a while. For the sake of both the Mercedes and accrued vacation hours.