On Life, Focus, and Wasting Time

If awareness is our essence, then human life, as experienced, is everything you did not miss. Of course, our mind’s gaze, like our eye’s, will necessarily miss most things — almost all things, proportionally. It follows that the fullest life possible to us is not the one which chases the greatest quantity of sights — a fool’s errand, given the natural limits of our visual range — but rather the one which focuses most sharply on the right objects.

The only rational aim is therefore to try to see a few valuable things deeply and precisely. The hectic random search for quantitative experience is thus counterproductive in the extreme, a pure distraction, like a thousand random notes — each one perhaps pleasing enough in itself — superimposed upon a Mozart melody, each of those superfluous sounds diluting our ear’s attention to the natural object of attraction buried beneath the resulting heap of noise. Every moment your mind is not clearing a space for those few essential objects, or subjecting them to the deep focus of the understanding, you are not living in the strictest sense of the word; you are, essentially, wasting time. To waste time is nothing but to miss more than you needed to miss, which means to live less than you ought to have lived.

And then there is this: no object revealed in time will ever appear in the same way again. You get one chance to see it as it arises at any given now, which may mean one chance to see it from the only angle that reveals something new from your vantage point, something you might never notice when seeing it from another angle, in another context. Avert your attention at the wrong moment, then — allow your mind to be caught lazily unfocused on the periphery when lightning flashes at the core of your being — and you might miss your life’s key term, your faintest hope, your last chance at true virtue, your intellect’s vaguely intuited intentionality, the hidden path to your soul, or the momentary gleam in the mirror that redeems all the years of pain, boredom, and isolation.

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