The farther you look, the less you see
Don’t dwell on the future too much
We like to look at the past of the future. We like to recall past experiences or look forward to what might be. We like to connect certain experiences to memories. For example, the Tiger Balm I smelled yesterday took me back to my parent’s house, when I was 8 years old and my mom put some of it on my forehead, against the cold I had. I also like to look at my tea when I just poured some milk in it, and the milk is swirling and shrouds of mist seem to float in the cup, making weird shapes and figures, which are amazing to look at, especially because they are changing constantly. I find it fascinating to think that this milk, playing with the tea in the cup as if it were some kind of magic mist from some old movie, represents the future, just as the scent of the Tiger Balm in a way represents moments of the past. I find both fascinating, the ongoing milk enshrouding the tea and the scent of the Tiger Balm which makes me shiver to my very core, and I see a similarity between them.
This similarity might be a little far-fetched, but since I’m a dreamer, I like to fantasize about stuff and come up with far-fetched similarities. The similarity I discover is that the more I experience either of them, the more they seem to turn in a current ongoing experience and slowly stop being representations of the past and of the future. The more I sniff the Tiger Balm, the less it takes me back to my parent’s house and the less it has anything to do with any memories at all. The more I sniff, the more it becomes just a scent. I notice something similar going on with the milk in the tea, although this is more of an abstract notion. At first I see a ongoing change in shapes and figures and the milk floats around freely. But after some time the milk settles down. It mixes with the tea and sinks to the bottom, becoming a stable color in which there is nothing to see anymore. The longer I look, the less I can distinguish.
Now this is an actual physical process, a fact. But people like to think of the future as a fact as well. Most people like to plan their future, which comes down to putting every possible happening in order and basically making facts of every non-factual future happening. In a way people like to see the future as if it were already there the way they have in mind, the only remaining thing is for it to happen. Sure, we can plan our day, or tomorrow, or the day after. We plan ahead, and we keep looking at the future and at things to happen. The further we look, the longer we look, and we look at it in order to predict things. But the longer we look, the harder it is to see anything. We see tomorrow happening as we speak, we see how we get out of the house and go to the store, we see how we prepare our meal, go to class, or drop our kids off at school on our way to work. But this seems to count only for a day or so. The more we look into the future, the harder it is to see everything happening.
Thus the comparison with the cup of tea with milk. Coming back to the Tiger Balm, we can put this possibly quite vague argument in different words. The easiest way to remember something is through a connection to something physical, an object, a sound, music, or a smell. This Tiger Balm reminds me of my mum and my parent’s house. The particular sound of a Samsung ringtone might remind you of an important event where everyone had to be quiet, and your got disturbed by this annoying sound of a phone of some moron that had forgotten to turn off his phone. But then, the more often you hear this ringtone, the less it takes you back to that particular time and place where you were first witnessing something great and then felt annoyed because you got disturbed. When you start hearing it everywhere, you might notice, if you pay attention to it, that you care less and less and that at some point there is nothing left of the connection between that particular sound and your memory of the event. The more I smell this Tiger Balm, the less it becomes a memory of my parent’s house and the fuzzy room in which I was, and the more it becomes just a delicious smell. When I first got it, it took me back to a warm and fuzzy place. Now, three days later, this is not what the scent represents anymore.
So the case of the Tiger Balm shows that the more we experience something, the more it becomes an experience in itself. It might have been connected to a memory, but the connection to the experience fades away. In the case of the milk in the tea, you see that if you keep looking at the dazzling play of the shrouds of mist, you will see that at some point there is not much to look at anymore, since it has all become one blurry liquid. Thinking of it as trying to look into the future, like Medieval witches and wizards used to do, makes you realize that the further you look, the less there is to distinguish. The similarity between the two is that the longer you do something, the less it resembles something in your mind and the less you can associate with it. After a while, there is nothing left but a current experience.
And what do we do with this realization? I guess it is basic psychology, and you can use it for many purposes. For one, you might want to think twice before you repeat a brilliant event that made you so extremely happy. A realistic and well-known example is an amazing party, on which many of your best friends were, where the mood was great, in short, one of the best parties you ever had. Now what our first instinctive reaction is, is that we want to repeat it as soon as possiblehttp://www.diegomallien.com/philosophy/farther-look-less-see/http://www.diegomallien.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/shutterstock_521674090-1024x708.jpghttp://www.diegomallien.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/shutterstock_521674090-150x150.jpgWho loves philosophy?Don't dwell on the future too much We like to look at the past of the future. We like to recall past experiences or look forward to what might be. We like to connect certain experiences to memories. For example, the Tiger Balm I smelled yesterday took me back to...Diederik Mallien firstname.lastname@example.orgAdministratorWhat's Happening?