The Giants victory also reminded me of another thing – the importance of living in the now.
Minho asked if he should buy tickets to the World Series. He got different advice, but I said he should. Something great happening in the present is a valuable thing. Who knows when it will happen again. So it’s a good thing to enjoy it as fully as one can (within reason) while it’s there.
One of my all-time favorite 49ers is Bryant Young. He was drafted by the 49ers in 1994, and won a Super Bowl in his rookie season. At the time, he must have thought that it was just the first of many Super Bowls he would win. After all, it was the 49ers’ 5th championship in 15 years. In fact, he said as much in interviews after he retired. At it turned out, he played 14 seasons and never again made it to a Super Bowl. Had he known that at the time that it would be the last Super Bowl he experienced, he said later, he would have savored that first season much more.
I took a life lesson from that. Good things take place in our lives all the time. But we often fail to recognize how good they are when they’re actually happening. We should. Because oftentimes, they’re gone before we realize it.
I’ve long been influenced by this idea. I think both existentialism and Nietzsche are ridiculous, but they share a similar viewpoint that has really impacted me – the idea of fully wanting what’s happening to you right now. I’m thinking primarily of Camus’ The Myth Of Sisyphus and Nietzche’s idea of eternal recurrence. If you’re not familiar with them, in The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus considers the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who was punished by the gods to push a rock up a mountain, only to have it roll down again, repeated for all eternity. Camus says that Sisyphus’ existence is absurd, but that if he can accept his fate, he can become happy. Nietzche’s idea of eternal recurrence is (I think) related to his ideas of will to power. He asks to imagine a demon telling you that the life as you now live it, you will have to live in exactly the same way over and over and over again, without end. Nietzche argues that if instead of despairing over it, that if we were to want nothing more than that and live our lives accordingly, as if we wanted to live them in exactly the same way repeatedly forever, that there is power there.
Like I said, Camus and Nietzsche are both loco, but those specific ideas I’ve always jived with. And I’ve been trying to put it into practice. Sometimes I’m with the kids and there are sporadic times of either boredom or tedium. I literally stop and tell myself – I want that this moment with the kids be repeated forever. And it helps. Makes me remember that there will be a time when they won’t agree to hug me on cue. When they’re not excited to see me come home. When their minor rebellion becomes serious defiance. When I won’t find them cute. There are hard things about parenthood, and sometimes I’m tempted to just want to get through it, but there’s so much more that’s good. That’s why for all the hardship, parents tend to have more than one kid. And there’s power in actively wanting what’s happening to you right now.
There is a danger in being too focused on the present. For one, we can end up pursuing the ephemeral over the lasting. I think Camus and Nietzsche threw themselves into the power over the now because they believed that there was no eternal future. Christians obviously believe differently, and we’re supposed to live our lives in a forward-facing way. For me, it’s not exactly about fully living in the now, but about appreciating what’s in the now. I think that’s how we’re supposed to be.
One thing that’s helped is giving thanks more regularly. A.J. Jacobs wrote a book about his experience trying to live out all the commands in the Bible for a year, and one thing he reported was that he couldn’t help but feel happier when he was forced to give thanks daily, to reflect on the good things he has. Jieun and I have been trying to end our day with a quick, simple prayer, each person giving thanks for one thing and then praying for something else. And forcing myself to give thanks for something specific regularly has helped me recognize all the good things in my life.
So I’ve decided to fully appreciate Stanford football this season, and that’s why it was so vitally important for me to go to at least one game (I took the fam to the Arizona game). It’s the best season we’ve had in decades. maybe ever. It’s overwhelmingly likely that both Luck and Harbaugh will leave after this season (which I don’t blame either for) – who knows when we’ll be this good again. Maybe not in my lifetime. So I’m going to enjoy it as fully as I can. I’m bummed that they didn’t end up in the Rose (or even the Alamo) Bowl, as I definitely would have gone – it just costs too much to fly to Miami. But I am savoring it. A great, great season.
Actually, if anyone’s up for Miami, I’m still contemplating going.