It was early Friday morning. SoundEagle woke up and found barely an hour ago:
On the basis that no specific reasons were provided to explain why SoundEagle has been chosen to receive the award, one could perhaps presume that the musical magic of the filmic logic must have worked its charm:
Nothing comes from nothing,
Nothing ever could.
So somewhere in my youth or childhood,
I must have done something good.
Or rather, in keeping more to the spirit of Moment Matters, one could perhaps conclude that SoundEagle must have been awarded for living in the moment, for being noble in writing and capturing the best in life, for being so bold as to remind “us what really mattered ― Savoring the experience of quality time.”
SoundEagle is certainly very grateful for a lot of reasons. And yet, how should or could an Acceptance Speech be reasonably delivered regardless of the specific degrees or details of an awardee’s achievements or contributions? Perhaps one should or could take a moment to fathom the fabric and interconnectedness of life amidst all its trials and tribulations, and throughout its course of evolution bolstered by systemic interdependencies and resiliencies.
“If I can do it then anybody can.”
There have been the myth and romanticization of the self-made person succeeding against all odds. The brilliance of certain accomplishments can be so blindingly bright that some people may fail to recognize that many things and conditions have to fall into place for someone to achieve success. Even the greatest heroes, rulers or tyrants need thousands or millions of supporters and followers, plus good climate and sufficient natural resources.
Certain high-flyers, champions or celebrities may utter “If I can do it then anybody can.” On the surface, their statement may seem to suggest that they are modest, democratic, inspiring and down-to-earth individuals who have succeeded through sheer effort and determination, and that they are encouraging others to do so in order to realize their dreams and potentials.
Yet, one cannot help wondering that these successful people are selling an idea or image of success based on the belief that an individual can transcend or overcome any obstacle. They seem to think that everyone has the same chance and is on a level playing field. They have forgotten that many conditions, peoples and infrastructures have to be present within an environment or a society for certain pursuits, successes or achievements to take place.
If one were to put those same high-flyers, champions or celebrities in a more disadvantaged socio-economic or socio-demographic area, or in a third- or fourth-world country saddled with poverty, crime and other social and cultural issues, then the utterance “If I can do it then anybody can” could be readily exposed as being vain and vacuous. Also, had they been born into a world in which they have to face poverty, corruption, delinquency, famine, disability, disease, discrimination, slavery, war, anarchy, exploitation, marginalization, despotism, ostracism, obscurantism and so on, none of them would go very far or have the opportunity to enter their chosen professions.
Many people can have a strong tendency or proclivity to overestimate the ability and autonomy of the individual, and to underestimate the role and influence of the social. They also tend to evaluate situations based on their assessments, experiences and outcomes of their own prevailing circumstances. Overall, people characteristically commit or experience attribution bias:
In psychology, an attribution bias or attributional bias is a cognitive bias that refers to the systematic errors made when people evaluate or try to find reasons for their own and others’ behaviors. People constantly make attributions regarding the cause of their own and others’ behaviors; however, attributions do not always accurately reflect reality. Rather than operating as objective perceivers, people are prone to perceptual errors that lead to biased interpretations of their social world.
Hence, even at the exalted moment of celebrating one’s foremost achievement or major milestone, one should be vigilant about championing or glorifying certain feat, goal or quest, whose accessibility, feasibility and desirability can often far exceed the fundamental purview and spirit of fairness, practicability and sheer determination. In that regard, and in accepting this award, let it be repeated that SoundEagle is certainly very grateful for a lot of reasons, including being spared so far by stray bullets and comets, by the deadliest academics and epidemics, as well as by the apocalyptic revolt of our fellow nonhumans and Mother Nature forevermore affected by mounting anthropogenic forces, living, as we are, on borrowed time and resources.
From the perspectives of social sciences such as sociology, anthropology and archaeology, the putative personal freedom to individualize, the aspiring determination to accomplish, the ambitious resolve to succeed, and the career trajectory to pursue, are all tightly bound to social upbringing, cultural capital and collective empowerment as well as socioeconomic reality and demographic profile, not just to individual aptitude, capacity, competence or intelligence. Practising an “anti-capitalist eco-philosophy that’s a blend of existentialism, Zizek and Buddhism”, a graduate “from Temple University with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Religious Studies and Environmental Science” gives “a short critique of identity”, according to which both the environmental dependency of social outcomes and the situational primacy of human development are the dynamic results of people’s lives being embedded in, and moulded by, class structures, social stratifications, cultural reproductions and communication frameworks, as propounded in social constructivism, social constructionism and symbolic interactionism:
…Being an individual seems to be the daily life of people living under capitalism. This insistence on being an individual, a self-made man, is a double-edged sword. On [the] one hand, you are allowed to claim all of your achievements as a result of your own sense of self, but on the other hand all of your failures and shortcomings are yours as well. It’s within this context that the self-help and mental health industry positions itself: helping individuals [to] fight their demons alone. Good mental health is living happily as an individual. Bad mental health is dissatisfaction from living as an individual. But this is how you help people, on the scale of individuals.
But we are not individuals, or if we are [then] the term needs to surrender a lot of the power associated to it. We are people born into situations. Suburbanite parents on the hill say of young African-American boys “Well if I was born in the ghetto I would refuse to sell drugs.” No, you wouldn’t, because you wouldn’t be you then. The very act of saying “I” invokes your entire upbringing. Your very identity is constructed out of society. Society furnishes you with the raw materials out of which you make yourself. The proof of this is that we all identify with the word “I” but none of us invented it. We had to be taught it. At best, “I” refers to a mixture of your will and the larger environment, a compromise between the world you were born into and your desires for yourself that would have come true had it not been for the world. At worst, “I” is an amputation, a denial of the world that they exist in. This is where people like to play the same game as those suburbanite parents did: they like to imagine themselves as divorced from their circumstances, and able to jump into anyone’s life at anyone’s moment to cast judgment…
A Meditation on Life: Delayed Gratification
In pondering the meaning of life, mortality, purpose and time, Frank J Peter expresses his longing for living in the moment versus the uncertainty of the future in his post entitled A Meditation on Life: Delayed Gratification:
Wouldn’t it be nice if living in the moment was a simple matter of living for the moment?
Alas, life is not that easy for a creature who knows that tomorrow often matters more than today…
… so much so that today’s pleasure, comfort, ease, and safety must be sacrificed for a possibly better future…
… a future that may never come.
There lies a perennial confrontation of reality and a contradiction of expectation, etched in the faith, belief or conviction that tomorrow matters more, and in the fear, anxiety or apprehension that the conceivably nicer future may never eventuate. Faced with such an existential incongruity, one could be forgiven for showing a sign of resignation or a sense of acceptance, and for choosing to live in the moment for the moment, albeit momentarily, if not from time to time or even from moment to moment, “so that today’s pleasure, comfort, ease, and safety” can be remembered and appreciated in acknowledgment of their transience and finitude, and in anticipation of their coming into better fruition through delayed gratification. Moment matters as the respite, retreat or punctuation in a hurried life beset with vicissitudes.
Scientific Account of Living in the Moment
Could some novel approach to conducting scientific experiments provide tentative inklings or solid confirmations on the pragmatic, utilitarian, emotional, psychological, existential, phenomenological, spiritual or metaphysical aspects of living in the moment? Such experiments should ideally reveal that living in the moment is actually beneficial to the human psyche; that being in the moment calms the wayward mind and curbs its desire to revisit the past and project into the future; that the mind focussing on the moment is one that is less prone to ruminating on what is or is not happening; and that staying in the moment promotes harmony, peace, geniality, benevolence or contentment and reduces conflict, anxiety, aggression, malevolence or unhappiness.
Born out of a scientific research project investigating happiness and what makes life worth living, the innovative survey app (coded and designed by Visnu Pitiyanuvath) called “Track Your Happiness” was conceived by Harvard psychologist Daniel T Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth as part of the latter’s doctoral research at Harvard University, after having majored in Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Economics in his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Duke University, and having worked as a product manager in the software industry. As a Health and Society Scholar of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Matthew Killingsworth “studies the nature and causes of human happiness,… His recent research has focused on the relationship between happiness and the content of everyday experiences, the percentage of everyday experiences that are intrinsically valuable, and the degree of congruence between the causes of momentary happiness and of one’s overall satisfaction with life.”
Stay in the Moment and Stop Wandering
According to the abstract of their research paper entitled “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind”, the “Track Your Happiness” app allows people to report their feelings in real time by using “smartphone technology to sample people’s ongoing thoughts, feelings, and actions and found (i) that people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is and (ii) found that doing so typically makes them unhappy.” The research outcome indicates that a mind focusing on the present is more conducive to happiness and better for people’s moods than a mind wandering or daydreaming. In other words, people are often happiest when they are lost in the moment. In contrast, the more their mind wanders, the less happy they tend to be. According to Lauren Schenkman who reported the survey results in her 2:01PM 11 Nov 2010 entry entitled “Daydreaming Is a Downer” published in the Science magazine of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):
Snap out of it! That daydream you’re having about eloping to the Bahamas with Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie is leaching away your happiness. In a new global study, researchers used iPhones to gauge the mental state of more than 2000 volunteers several times a day—even when they were having sex. The results indicate that, if you want to stay cheerful, you’re better off focusing on the present, no matter how unpleasant it is.
The human mind is remarkably good at straying from the moment. That ability allows us to remember the past, plan for the future, and “even imagine things that never occur at all,” says Matthew Killingsworth…
…The daydreaming was not good for people’s moods: Volunteers were unhappier when their thoughts were elsewhere. Statistical tests showed that mind-wandering earlier in the day correlated with a poorer mood later in the day, but not vice versa, suggesting that unhappiness with their current activity wasn’t prompting people to mentally escape. Instead, their wandering minds were the cause of their gloom. Mental drifting was a downer for subjects during even the dullest activities, like cleaning, the researchers found.…
The findings “challenge the foundations of psychology,” says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Northeastern University in Boston, who pioneered data gathering with Palm Pilots. Psychologists assume that the mind responds to a stimulus out in the world, but in this study, “it almost looks like the stimulus is irrelevant.”
For people who are non-technically minded and unfamiliar with research methodology and statistical procedures, the one-page research paper of Daniel T Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth entitled “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind” can be abbreviated as follows:
Unlike other animals, human beings spend a lot of time thinking about what is not going on around them, contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or will never happen at all. Indeed, “stimulus-independent thought” or “mind wandering” appears to be the brain’s default mode of operation (1–3). Although this ability is a remarkable evolutionary achievement that allows people to learn, reason, and plan, it may have an emotional cost. Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and “to be here now.” These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Are they right?
First, people’s minds wandered frequently, regardless of what they were doing. Mind wandering occurred in 46.9% of the samples and in at least 30% of the samples taken during every activity except making love.…
Second, multilevel regression revealed that people were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not [slope (b) = –8.79, P < 0.001], and this was true during all activities, including the least enjoyable.…
Third, what people were thinking was a better predictor of their happiness than was what they were doing.…
In conclusion, a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.
As can be seen, the research paper begins with the premise that the intellectual ascent of the human species through the process of evolution is a double-edged sword insofar as the evolved mental capacity in humans to organize themselves for complex social life necessitates significant cognitive demands and social proclivities for perceiving, processing and predicting behavioural controls and intentions by mulling over past and future events, or replaying real and imaginary scenarios, all of which lead people to become perpetual mental captives wandering from thought to thought independent of mental stimuli and physical activities, as much as their nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors had been wandering from place to place independent of the environmental potentials for settling down. Whilst the paper does not prescribe any remedy, it does suggests that the itinerant mind with its haphazard terrains can turn into the blissful mind with harmonizing landscapes when it can be reined in by philosophical disciplines, calmed by meditative practices, or settled by spiritual traditions. The research has been showcased on numerous media channels, including New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, Good Morning America, TEDxZaragoza and TedTalks, the last of which is shown bellow:
Stop Facebooking and Smell the Roses
Considering that billions of people are using social media and smartphones in one form or another regularly, and thus surrendering themselves to the addictive trappings of digital life, virtual reality, gaming fantasy and other instantaneous online interactions whilst also multitasking and concentrating amidst various distractions in their real-life activities such as eating, drinking, driving, walking, talking, reading and so on, there are compelling reasons to heed the words of Jesse Hawley (a biologist, a freelance science writer and illustrator as well as a communications advisor at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)), who wrote imaginatively and persuasively in his essay entitled “6 Ways Facebook is a Life Leeching Succubus” as follows:
A mainstay of Eastern philosophy is living in the moment. It’s difficult to argue with the healthiness of this practice.
Basically, if you’re constantly thinking about the future ‘what’s for dinner’, ‘it’ll be so cool when the new Smash Bros. comes out’, ‘life will be much better when I have a real job’, then you will never experience the present — and thus you’ll live a virtual life. The ‘ideal’ life that you’ve always dreamed about can never be tasted in the present.…
That’s why it’s nice to eat slowly and clearly perceiving a nice meal. To ‘stop and smell the roses’ is both literal and figurative. Do it.
Enter: Facebook – **PHWOOOOAAR** – it stomps down the street, leaving a puddle of pus and garbage juice in its wake. It stomps over and throws the flower-smelling hippy into its gargantuan, gaping face orifice.
Maybe I’m exaggerating for the sake of illustration, but Facebook is certainly efficient at stopping people from living in the moment.
I’ll admit, sometimes FB users are living in the moment, but it’s someone else’s – like: what that someone else is eating for dinner right now.
Instead of experiencing a live show, the FB-possessed are too busy taking blurry, pixelated photos. Instead of enjoying nature, these people are scouting out ideal profile picture angles. Instead of thinking ‘how lucky we are to have the chance to even experience reality’, we are thinking ‘how can my current situation be synthesised into a status update?’
In other words, people who are overly fixating on what is supposed or expected to happen in the future (or the past for that matter) are missing out on the present, thus cocooning themselves in a prolonged state of suspense, expectancy or anticipation, and entrapping themselves in a mental bubble of unrelenting momentum, as if being in the present or living in the moment is synonymous with stagnation, procrastination, unproductivity or apathy. In a figurative sense, they are already living a virtual life, even without immersing themselves in the vast digital edifice of virtual reality and social media. Yet, this existential dilemma has been further intensified and exacerbated since contemporary modern lives have become increasingly mediated by the trappings of technology, readily causing interminable intrusions and unsustainable disruptions wrought by update overdrive, information overload and multimedia overdose, let alone engendering addiction, superficiality, narcissism, status anxiety, estrangement from reality, and alienation from Nature.
Living in the moment can have far more urgency and currency nowadays, given that the pace of population growth, social change, technological succession and information explosion have caused everything to be even more likely to be cramped out of existence and to recede into the past, into oblivion, into historical junkyards. It would seem that even authors have to build in obsolescence in their stories and characters. “Existence is a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece”, according to Vladimir Nabokov. In that case, may the mystery of reality and the machinery of existence occasionally permit extraordinary mental clarity and vividness when we inhabit the moment!
Perhaps the moment will be a very special one to remember and treasure, as it materializes at the serendipitous arrival of an epiphany; at the critical juncture of making a discovery; at the long-awaited instance of reaching a milestone; at the unique occasion of gaining an insight; at the precipice of losing the ego; or at the rare summit of attaining enlightenment.
Best Moment Award Winners
Awarding the people who live in the moment,
The noble who write and capture the best in life,
The bold who reminded us what really mattered ―
Savouring the experience of quality time.
THE WINNERS OF THE BEST MOMENT AWARD ARE:
- Caroline Bakker
- Swati Atul
- Inside the Mind of Isadora
- Motivational Rants!
- A World Traveler Who Is Spiritual
- Sylvie Ashford
- George Hayward
- Liesl Gordon
- N. Hülya Yılmaz
[Note: The winners listed above are originally designated by MomentMatters.com]
Don’t forget to celebrate with your followers! Tweet your success with hashtag #MomentMatters. Congratulations, winners!
Please kindly be informed that SoundEagle has also been given the same award by Melanie Jean Juneau at http://themotherofnine9.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/best-moment-award/, where her excellent “speech” or “confession” oozes with an intimate account of her personal journey into the world of blogosphere, which has enabled the blossoming of her creative side and nurturing quality. Melanie‘s gift and that from Moment Matters have turned the BEST MOMENT AWARD into a double honour.
[Note: MomentMatters.com seems to be defunct.]