This story has no structure, no ending that I can tell. Yet. It may have no reason to exist, other than it’s here.
Or rather, it’s there.
It does have a start, at about 11:50 a.m. today.
I had finished a class, and an older student was telling me about the various papers he had to write. You know, how much work he had to do, how much time it took. Stuff like that.
I said, “Don’t worry. You’ll get there.” That’s one of those empty phrases that says something, but you’re never sure what. I meant, of course, that he would get his papers finished.
I have this habit of tossing off little phrases when I don’t need to. It keeps people off guard, which is probably what I’m after. It’s a persona thing.
So after I said, “You’ll get there,” I added, “So will I.”
The guy looked puzzled, then smiled and said, “Doc, you’re already there. Maybe you’re enhancing your there-ness.”
Enhancing your there-ness.
I thought that was a pretty good phrase. I told him I would use it. I’ll probably use it a lot.
What does it mean? I don’t know, but it sounds good.
It depends on how you conceptualize “there.”
Maybe it’s a state of having arrived, having accomplished a goal. Or maybe it’s a state of meaningfully being in the moment.
Of course, it’s probably both.
There as Destination
I think this is what I was trying to convey to the student. That relative to life goals, you’re never really “there.”
Or at least, I don’t think you should be.
I mean, what good is it if you set one goal, achieve it, then stop? Like, “Okay, I’m there.” And you’re satisfied with that. There is no more. You’re finished.
I doesn’t mean dead. But stagnant. Like a swampy pool with no circulation. Soon you will stink.
I’ve done a lot; learned a lot. Photography, reporting, history, scale-modeling, academics, college teaching, parenting, driving a stick, navigating New York.
Now I’m learning Medium. Then what? I don’t know, but I suppose I’ll get there.
There as Being in the Moment
You’ve seen the 1979 Peter Sellers movie Being There? If you haven’t, check it out. It’s about simple Chance the Gardner, who becomes an unwitting confidante to the social elite.
He does it just by listening to people when they spill their most intimate concerns. By really listening, and offering simple guidance which people mistake for the most profound wisdom.
That’s probably the most important part of being there, or being in the moment.
Pay attention to what’s going on, listen to what people are telling you. Listen more than you talk. Stay off your phone, pull your earbuds out, stop working on whatever you’re working on — just for a moment.
People are lonely, I think. That’s probably why they’re on social media all the time, but that’s false company. When they find someone who looks like they will listen, they pour their hearts out.
Did a supermarket checker ever tell you the complete story of their day while scanning your groceries? If you’re a supermarket checker, did a customer ever do the same to you?
I’m not very good at this. I tend to shut off listening to people the lower they get on my “do-I-know-you” scale. They keep talking, because I nod and say a word or two. But I’m not really there.
I try to be “there” when I’m at my office, but sometimes I’m actually at home.
That’s probably normal.
So, is there “there” there?
I guess it’s how you define there. Kind of like how Bill Clinton sought to define what “is” is.
For me, “there” is probably more destination than being in the moment.
I’m probably so busy getting there that I’m not really there.
You figure it out.
I don’t know. I suppose I’ll get there.