11 October 2012

the october that never was.

It's already October 11th.

Every year I tell myself, 'David. This is October. The best month of the year. You've really got to make a concerted effort to enjoy it this time. You spend too much time staring off into space, sleeping, and otherwise whiling away the hours without consciously inhabiting each successive moment. I don't just want you to experience this month; I want you to EXPERIENCE! this month. I want you to let this precious interval course through your very being—I want you to feel its movement, its mighty current overcome you, so that you are no longer acting in the moment, but rather the moment is acting upon you. In becoming a consummately observing and sensing subject, you will be transformed into the perfect object. If you take everything that the world has to offer you, if only for a minute—that is, if you surrender to the wholeness of the world and accept it not as a composite of conflicting, heterogeneous elements but as an indivisible and infinite otherness that engulfs you—then you've transcended the banal experience of a temporality laid out in increments, quantifiable, cellular. You will finally be freed from the oppression of time and age. You will become a finely tuned instrument, flowing without interruption from the past to the future, absorbing the wealth of the universe in one divine ravishment.'

Okay. So maybe that isn't exactly what I say to myself in so many words. My inner voice is much more conversational. But I am trying to describe a complicated feeling that reemerges at this time every year: on the one hand, I am exhilarated by October (and the autumn in general), but on the other hand—I am troubled by the suspicion that I'm not appreciating or experiencing it sufficiently. This begs an obvious question: How exactly does one go about willfully enjoying a given thing—in this case, a month? How do you press down your mind upon some object and force your way 'into' it? My instinct (which has never been very reliable) suggests that I sit in my backyard, without doing anything but listening and looking—but this seems like a very particular and limited way of experiencing a month. If I try observing it in this way, I know what I will see: the trees and their colorful leaves, maybe some squirrels, and a haggard lawn. This is part of autumn, of course, but it isn't all of it. It isn't enough.

One of the (several) reasons why I have such an affection for October is that I have many great memories associated with it. And I'm not even sure if the things that I remember actually happened in October or if that's just the way they seem in my mind. Maybe as the director of the movie of my memory I've green-screened in some of the trappings of the season in order to produce the maximum effect. It's often hard to place those specific and unexpected moments that don't carry any significance other than your enjoyment of them. You may remember that this thing happened at Christmas or that thing happened on your birthday, but the everyday surprises—the events that aren't centered on a date or an occasion but just happen spontaneously, without regard to the temporal world—these are hard to hold on to in their accuracy. Nostalgia, after all, is the embellishment of the past. It's not that the past wasn't good, but a lot of its appeal comes from our present vantage, which of course we didn't have access to back then. When I pine for the past, I'm not wishing for the way things were, exactly. I'm wishing to be myself as I am and myself as I was at the exact same time. 

This year, yet again, I told myself that I should really try harder to enjoy the month of October. I suspect that there's a lot of nostalgia involved in this compulsion—that I'm nagging myself to accomplish an impossibility. And it's precisely because it's impossible that I desire it so passionately. My past—as I remember it now, in this very moment—never really occurred. It's a Frankenstein Past comprised of many different elements—some of them accurate, some of them inaccurate, but all of them viewed in the disfiguring looking glass of posterity. Rationally speaking, I know I should just abandon the task of enjoying October (because, really, enjoyment is never a task), but my inherent sense of tragedy finds beauty even in the impossibility of the perfect October.

13 comments:

  1. Amazing! This is the way I feel about October exactly. Do you also get depressed even before the month is out that you didn't make sufficient use of the time it offered? I'm already depressed! By now I should have gone for several bike rides along leaf-coated trails after work or taken the kids through a corn maze or at least smoked pot on my back deck in the crisp fall air. And yet I have done none of those things and it is already a third over! I MUST FORCEFULLY ENJOY THESE NEXT THREE WEEKS OR I SHALL HAVE FAILED!

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    1. We still have 19 DAYS to suck the marrow out of October! I know we can do it this year!

      Related question: Why is it that I intensely and thoroughly experience the unpleasantness of, say, July but I have a difficult time grasping the joy of October?

      Life and its bitter ironies...

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    2. Because time seems to stop (or slow way down) when you're miserable?

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    3. Yup, same here. July can't be done with itself soon enough. I think it actually makes things worse for October, though, because you feel like you need to make up the difference and time just cheats you.

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  2. Yet another beautiful post, D. I feel this way about spring and fall, which are my two favorite seasons. I usually feel like they are over before I can fully enjoy them. And, when I know they are coming up I tell myself they are coming up and that I really.need.to.enjoy.them.this.year.

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    1. Indeed. I was never one who could be happy in the present moment. I do try, however.

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    2. The pressure of October is worse than many other times of year because—if you live in a seasonal climate like I do—you see the physical manifestation of the time passing (and being lost) as the leaves change colors and fall from the trees. Once that's gone, it's gone and you can't even fool yourself that it's not over.

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  3. I tell myself the same thing, only I call myself "you prostitute" instead of "David."

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    1. Prostitute's a little formal. I'd go with 'whore.'

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  5. It's already November. The second best month of the year. Happy birthday.

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    1. Thanks! (Whoever you are...)

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