What makes us “tick”

An article appeared yesterday in the New York Times entitled ‘The Ticktock of the Death Clock”. The title might insinuate a glaucous, pessimistic subject but it is actually that of an awakening and search for a sense of meaningfulness in life. Steven Petrow, its author, writes how,

With every new silver hair sprouting from my scalp, I can’t help but think of the shortening arc ahead of me. Now in my mid-50s, for the first time I’m no longer looking up, over and beyond. Rather, my trajectory points downward at the approaching horizon. 

Now though this is a dull prospect and one that has transformed into many proverbs over the years contrasting the age of hope and the age of regret/memory, many writings show how for many, it is a wake-up call and shakes people into reconsidering the meaning of their lives. Petrow further writes how this realization pushes him to wonder:

…how to live a truly meaningful life. I knew it wasn’t sleeping my way through the workdays to get to the weekend.

It is like the French saying ‘metro, boulot, dodo’.

Life does seem to be somewhat shaped like an imbalanced pyramid. People spend the first part finding their way up, working on their careers and building families, their minds so focused on the future they tend to overlook the present so that by the time the future knocks and settles itself into the now in the form of financial security, family and home-owning, the dawning question poses itself: what is there left? What have I achieved? What does my life mean?

I am only 26 years old and I ask myself these questions every day. I think back to when I was a child and remember adults telling me how wonderful being a child was, and in my youthful ignorance I would look back at them thinking “geeze get over it, I can’t wait to be independent and live my own life!” Of course now I see the bigger picture, at the same time knowing there was no way, when I was ten, that I could grasp the significance of that nostalgic comment.

I can now though, and, very aware that the time will come where I will look back on my twenties the same way I now look back on my teens and childhood, it is a kick for me simply to think of my present youthfulness, covet it and enjoy it. It is sometimes worth slowing down and considering the now, and how wonderful every moment of it is.

The time I’ve been going through, soul-searching and job-hunting, although strenuous, are not only rewarding in their achievement, but also because of the youthful experience they represent. After all, the doubt, uncertainty, unlocking of answers and discoveries, those are all parts of life that make it so exciting.

Wherever I am along the pyramidal metaphor I know I will be there only once. The moment I move forward, nostalgia will take its place. Therefore the now, the butterflies in my stomach, the flurry of encounters, the highs and the lows of my present life are all worth embracing, for they are what make me alive, and there is nothing more beautiful than, as Thoreau puts it, to “suck the marrow out of life”, although in my book one needn’t take refuge in a forest to do so. Living is one physical thing, but being aware of feeling alive is an out-of-body experience not to be forsaken.

I feel like being able to step out of our bodies and become aware of the emotions we are experiencing, whether it be fear, love, hurt or excitement, is an immensely conscious act: not to consider the feeling itself, but how it is making us vibrate, how our senses are ignited and pump blood through our veins. We strive on emotions, and when they overwhelm us, we forget to stop and think that at this moment, we have never felt so alive. These are what make us move forward, and it is only when they disappear that we stop to wonder why we feel so void and unconsciously begin to seek them anew. If truth be told, I would rather feel sad than naught.

I have recently met someone, and chills run through me every time I set out to meet him. I am excited at my growing infatuation and worried at the same time. I project myself into the future and withhold at the same time. But regardless of the outcome of this encounter and the validity of these intertwining emotions, amidst them I stop to think “wow”, it is amazing to simply feel.

Underlining all our experiences is the beauty of feeling. Those who are able to realize this are those who “enjoy the little things in life”. Finding meaningfulness in life is also understanding, recognizing and appreciating what makes us tick.

Again, paraphrasing Thoreau, I for one most definitely do not want, when I come to die, to discover that I have not lived, and I believe that if we force ourselves into a deeper consciousness of being, “the Ticktock of the Death Clock” will feel less threatening.

For reference, Steven Petrow’s article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/01/the-tick-tock-of-the-death-clock/?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.z_sma=HL_TTO_20130802&_r=0

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