One thing that amazes me about my Miniature Schnauzer, even more than his ability to rend zombies limb for limb, is his ability to live in the moment. Animals and children do this naturally, actors practice it as part of their craft; the rest of us neglect to do it, or have forgotten how. I have a great fear that one day I’ll look back and realize I lived exactly the life I wanted to, but forgot to enjoy it along the way.
When we’re young, living in the moment is easy. We laugh when something makes us happy. We sleep when we’re tired. We cry when we don’t get ice cream (I no longer cry when I don’t get ice cream, but I’m still not happy about it). Eventually we go to school and learn to think before we act and to not say things we’ll regret later. We begin projecting into the future and reliving the past.
Many years ago my wife and I were visiting Disneyland and observed a party of mentally challenged adults being escorted through the park. There was a man in his forties, with stubble on his chin and wearing a bright yellow windbreaker. Someone had purchased him a small stuff animal, which he was staring at with wide-eyed amazement and tenderly stroking with his big hands. It was an image both sad and wonderful. Instead of feeling sorry for him, I found myself envious. For him, that toy, at that moment, was the most marvelous thing in the world.
It’s interesting that this incident pulled me into the moment, and (for a brief time) consumed all of my attention. I’m sure this is why I remember it so vividly. That and the fact I made a sketch of it when I got home.
Knowing I’m not alone in my inability to live in the moment doesn’t make me feel better, but it does bring into focus an important point about storytelling and character development. I’ll go into that in part two of this post.