Enjoy Every Moment

serif text says, "Time is like a river. You can't touch the same water twice, because the flow that has been passed will never pass again. Enjoy everyone moment in your life." Credit is given to "LifeLearnedFeelings" at the bottom.

As long as we don’t get into quantum physics, that time / river analogy holds up.

I just don’t see what it has to do with the imperative to enjoy.

This reads like a syllogism, except there’s no clear relationship between the premises and the conclusion.

“Socrates is a man. All men are mortal. Therefore, have another glass of wine.”

Enjoy every moment in your life just because it’s unique?

Suffering can be exquisitely unique, and I’m not about to start appreciating my pain just because it’s not technically identical to the pain that preceded or is likely to follow it.

Many years ago, I read the short story “Funes the Memorious” by Jorge Luis Borges, and I found it both fascinating and overwhelming. I briefly revisited a summary on Wikipedia to write this post, so that’s where I’m coming from right now.

I’ll offer a spoiler warning for my summary, but the fact that it was first published in 1942 feels like pretty fair notice.

The title character, Funes, is a remarkable youth who experiences each present moment in unfathomable detail. Ever since “the accident,” he can fully recall anything he’s ever seen, heard, smelled, tasted, felt, or learned.

“Not only was it difficult for him to comprehend that the generic symbol dog embraces so many unlike individuals of diverse size and form; it bothered him that the dog at three fourteen (seen from the side) should have the same name as the dog seen at three fifteen (seen from the front).” (Borges)

He retains memories of literally all of his previous experiences – for instance, he is exceptionally fast at learning languages, and he can carry on linear conversations – but the information stacks up as trillions of individual pieces of knowledge rather than collapsing into categories that erase specificity.

This portrait of Funes is ultimately bittersweet. He dies at a young age shortly after being interviewed by the narrator of the story (a lightly fictionalized version of the real author).

This narrator’s perception of Funes is both reverent and patronizing. He keeps talking about the tragic youth’s incredible mind and amazing gift, while sadly pondering about the lost potential of that unique mind having been tethered to such a limited existence.

It certainly offers a different perspective on the message of “every moment in your life.”

I think the macro is ultimately meant to be read as a “seize the day” kind of thing.

Borges, on the other hand, seems a little more like an “engage in melancholic reflection on the astounding breadth of possibilities that dissipate to nothingness with each passing moment of each day” kind of vibe. To each their own.

This main message isn’t really the issue I have with the macro, anyway.

Plenty of profound philosophical reflection has been dedicated to the human experience of the passage of time.

The issue I’m picking at here is the disconnect between the evidence (“time is like a river”) and the conclusion (“enjoy every moment”).

It can’t simply be profound to notice that no two moments of your lived experience have been identical – it has to be enjoyable.

This is where Funes comes in. Borges’ work hardly embodies Toxic Positivity.

Borges’ story entertains an extremely literal interpretation of the idea that every moment is unique (again, excluding technical consideration of subatomic particles, which I am severely under-equipped to unpack in a meaningful way).

Funes does not have a great time in his life. The character exists to be a tragic thought experiment.

I suppose the opposite of Funes might be something like that episode of Star Trek with the culture whose language is entirely comprised of metaphors. In that case, it’s necessary to understand the historical, cultural, and contextual application of every reference, so abstract conceptual generalizations are even more important than usual.

The macro is an active imperative to enjoy the exquisite ephemerality of every moment.

Unlike Borges, the unnamed creator of this image for LifeLearnedFeelings was probably not interested in contemplating the tragedy of squandered potential or the hierarchical structure of meaning.

Frankly, I would prefer to read Borges quotes superimposed over sunsets than most of the words that end up there:

“To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god.”

“I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the hunger of my heart, I am trying to bribe you with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat.”

And, aptly, on the subject of time and rivers:

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river the sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”

Also, I cannot buy that those are river ripples. That moon is clearly rising over either a lake or an ocean.