Life is short but afternoons are long

When Mark Twain wrote “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one,” he captured the paradox of life in a way I love to use as an approach. The Husago, as described by Anyidoho, the forward backwards forward backwards dance of life. Particularly I like it as an approach to time and find myself often saying “I had so much to do, in so little time that I had to slow down.” Slowing down has proven to be the most effective method in moving as fast as possible. The most productive days often happen because I wake up early and slow, incorporating a long slow start into the day, forward backwards, winding and spiralling towards my goal. 

This in itself is a constant reminder that most things follow this forward backward rule. In order to pursue you must practice restraint. In order to have you must lose. To walk forward you must press backwards into the ground. To cling you must let go. And these are not things that we are taught. Rather, they are things we learn. We are set on this earth in pursuit of desire and the journey, which is also the destination, shows us everything we need to know. Some see it earlier, some see it later and others never see it. 

This forward backward rule is coded in the set up, with biological, cultural, societal and contextual differences setting our desires up against each other. The cow only wants to live, but I want steak, that’s the way it goes. That’s the way it has always gone. There’s something in understanding the underlying paradox of the set up that allows one to look up and see that everything is an extension of self. And, inversely, that the self does not exist, rather it is a customised collage of everything categorised by time, place and experience. 

In this way we find ourselves as perspectives with needs rushing through the sea of consciousness desperate for a way to steer towards our desires, which themselves are like checkpoints on the path to actualization. Our pursuit itself takes the shape of the desire and the perceived distance, urgency and necessity. None of this, by the way, is happening linearly on a one way road. Instead everything occurs everywhere – all at once. This collision of selves is what we call life. And navigating these collisions is what we call living. 

Maybe that’s why, when you look keenly enough, it becomes clear that it is increasingly difficult to write something that is both true and short. They truth is always an intersection of multiple motions and enough fixation on any point could draw you away from your own trajectory. After all, attention is the rudder on this journey. And living does not wait, it yields silently. It accepts a new course without consent and you find yourself somewhere you didn’t intend at all. 

“Just keep swimming.” 

  • Dory

Caught in this eternal now that neither seems to have a beginning or an end, it begins to dawn upon any self that the only solution is to stay focussed on what is within their control. On the living, rather than the life. The problem, of course, comes when life gets in the way of living. It is here that we find ourselves caught up in looking for the short answer, for the direct route, for the simple, knowable truth. When instead we should remember that living is a product of life, the backward step is a part of the husago dance – and the beat goes on. 

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