Anticipation & worry: cut from the same cloth

March 29, 2011
Anticipation –the “looking forward to” has always been one of the best parts of anything pleasurable. The planning process makes the event so vivid (at least for me)
that sometimes I think I wouldn’t have to actually go at all to get pleasure from it.

It’s almost a talent.

But I was reminded of the flip side last week when I read Wendell Barry’s poem,
“The peace of wild things.”

Here’s the line:

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.

Animals live in the moment. But humans? Not always.
It’s hard.
Because we do something
they can’t do: we worry.

Here’s what Dionysius said about the sharp sword hanging over his head:

“It always hangs over my head and there is always a chance someone
or something may cut the slim thread.”

That’s really the human condition, isn’t it? There’s always something hanging over our head, preventing us from enjoying the moment.

The Sword of Damocles can be our mortality, for example.
When disease or dis-ease threatens us or our loved ones,
it’s the forethought of loss, of pain, of grief that flips on the anxiety switch.

When our friends and colleagues are losing their jobs,
when we see media coverage of layoffs, we feel badly for others but we also see that sword over our own heads
and imagine it coming down on us.

We worry.

In the extreme, one outcome of this kind of forethought is neurosis.
I can see it clearly when I instruct our petsitters. I am, in fact,
trying hard to decrease the odds that the thin thread will break.
I’m constantly trying to control all variables to prevent the thread from breaking.
Because I’m constantly worried that it will.

Have you ever had a run of good luck and knocked on wood, worried that enjoying your good fortune might tempt fate to deal you a mortal blow?
That’s forethought at its evil business.

The Sword of Damocles doesn’t exist in the animal kingdom.
Wild things? They live in the moment. They don’t worry about tempting fate.

We’d save ourselves a boatload of anxiety if we did the same.
Because the result will be the same, whether we worry about it or not.

Why waste time in anxiety and neurosis?
{she asks herself….}

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