It is difficult to escape the constant urging to “live in the moment”. The popular adage – while promoting such laudable projects as “dancing like nobody’s watching” – paradoxically warns against the seeming ability to live otherwise than in the moment, though in my opinion the capacity to do so defies logic and is therefore counterfeit. The only way to attribute any sense to the admonition is to suppose there is indeed a dichotomy between the mind and the body, that our head can somehow be in one space while our feet are in another. For those who are inclined to flirt with such philosophical conundrums the question is perhaps open to investigation; however, for those who are less theoretical and who haven’t the need to accommodate the ideological gap between the ethereal and the terrestrial, I am guessing we’re willing to accept that living in the present while pining for the ambitions of the future is not so great an inductive leap. Matters spiritual after all travel considerably faster and more fluidly than one’s corpus normally affords. Let’s just put it down to anticipation, that emotion characteristically involving pleasure (and sometimes anxiety) in considering some expected or longed-for good event. In its most general terms anticipation is excitement, waiting eagerly for something you know is going to happen. The agreeable attribute of anticipation is that one of its most common ingredients is delectation, imaginative and propitious speculation about the future. In spite of all that has transpired in our lives and in the world we are remarkably capable of supplying ourselves a delicious view of what is to come.
It is however sobering when considering the breathless poetry of hopefulness to borrow from the economic vernacular of anticipation; namely, the premature withdrawal or assignment of money from a trust estate. The future is our universal trust account, the well of expectation and promise. Yet drawing upon that resource not only diminishes it but may even exhaust it. This is not to suggest that we should wait like a sea captain’s wife in her widow’s walk, alive to trepidation only, but it is at least cautionary about cultivating an untimely fever for harmony and winning. To draw once again upon the serious realm of commerce, anticipatory behaviour is characteristically associated with breach or general misbehaviour, not a good thing. Jumping the gun is always about getting ahead of one’s self, and not in a good way.
While it is established that anticipation is open equally to both favour and disappointment, on the balance the probability of accurate prescience is not completely without expectation. It may for example be only in relatively small matters that one is preoccupied with what is about to transpire (like a dog waiting to be taken for a walk) or instead in more important aspirations (like a bride contemplating her wedding). More often than not anticipation is aligned with pleasure and rightly or wrongly we derive considerable buoyancy from the contemplation of our providence.
Wont as we are to believe what we want, uneasiness can yet linger. It is that component of apprehension which tempers the high hopes and impatience of anticipation. Our ardour is not infrequently accompanied by foreboding clouds that dampen optimism and augur mischief.
The really unsettling feature of anticipation is not the possibility of disenchantment. Rather it is this: as with most pleasures, it’s not so much the experience itself as the anticipation of it that is enjoyable. What an unfortunate truth! What a hit to the object of our anticipation! It were better to be in a perpetual state of anticipation than to diminish the experience by actually living it! How perfectly horrid!
Never mind. Optimism will ultimately eclipse pessimism. Besides we haven’t the intellectual integrity to mount an assault upon our own preconceived notions of what is to come. It is an accident of nature that we instinctively prefer the flavourful to the bitter. And if it means turning our back on the present and relishing in our mind what is in the future, so be it! If nothing else we’re assured to assuage the insipid moments of our lives, however briefly. Muster on and raise the chorus: “Looking forward to it!”