As Sartre put it: “Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.”
The quotation above was sent to me by my long-standing friend Dr. Franz B. Ferraris of whom I am quite certain – though without any tangible proof – that he subscribes to a like reflection upon the immediacy of the present. The unspoken sequel to the remark is that we’d better learn to make the best of what we have while we have it. By coincidence as we bicycled through a light snowfall this morning we passed an acquaintance walking her little white dog. She triumphantly exclaimed to us as we went by, “Isn’t it amazing!” This clipped addition to the conversation underscores the great surprise or wonder of life.
Given that it is Sunday morning and that the tradition of matins has not entirely evaporated from my spiritual conscience, it seems appropriate to mull over the veneration of the moment and the beyond. The muse sent me this morning by my erstwhile physician arose from an article in The Sunday Times by Matthew Syed in which he castigated those who routinely follow social media. He in my opinion correctly characterized media in general:
Indeed, this tendency is so familiar (the Swedish academic Hans Rosling spent a career asking similar questions) that psychologists have given it a name: negativity bias. The idea is that because we react more viscerally to bad news, we are more likely to click on it, or read it, or listen to radio programmes that purvey it endlessly. This leads us to fundamentally misrepresent the world around us, believing it to be significantly worse than it really is. In perhaps unconscious ways, we ask ourselves the question that Evie asked — “Why has my life been ruined?” — when, for most of us, it hasn’t.
It isn’t a bombshell that commerce is governed by what sells. Seemingly the problem arises particularly when passive minds are ruled by the identical product. The influence of thought extends – sometimes artistically, sometimes politically and culturally – to theatre, paintings and film. Where the subliminal assertions are adopted as true and critical there exists the threat of deviance, xenophobia and ineffable entitlement. Anything which directly or indirectly epitomizes the enjoyment of life as within the scope of some but not others is faulty in my view. I say this not as a hopeless liberal or atheist. To postulate otherwise risks offending logic. It is no more axiomatic than Mr. Sartre’s blunt hypothesis.