To kick start our three-day weekend, some friends whom I’ve had the fortune of knowing since freshman year planned a hike through Eno River State Park. On a Friday afternoon charmed by a beaming sun that had silenced the growling thunders of previous days, we bundled ourselves into two cars and travelled to Bobbitt Hole Trail.
Bobbitt Hole, to my philistine and foreign ears, brought to mind a location that could have been in “The Lord of the Rings.” And I wasn’t entirely wrong. Straight out of the sanitary, prim and proper college compound, we were treated to a brook gurgling as it squeezed itself between rocks and boulders. It was quite magical—the scent of damp soil, the sight of turtles tanning on a tree trunk prostrating across the river and the sound of us slapping salami onto our sandwiches.
We recalled our first-year antics, plenty of which centered on the Marketplace. Somebody took off with a whole pecan pie. Another snagged a pineapple that had been a piece of the cafeteria’s edible decorations. A sack of granola tided me over during Thanksgiving break, when eateries were closed and the shower faucets only begot painfully frigid water.
Our Bobbitt Hole chat hurtled through time, from bygone moments to post-graduation plans. The latter increasingly engraves itself on the campus landscape as career fairs and information sessions clutter our daily planners. Clad in spiffy suits and putting on clippity-cloppity heels, our future-regarding selves gaze toward haloed futures. Yet, let us not miss the moments for what they are worth.
Efficiency demands that a clear goal be in sight. Strutting toward a gilded future, we discard distractions and scorn idleness. This militant march, however, tramples on present moments that cradle muted meaning. Conversations with someone who has toasted your smoked salmon bagel, or the housekeeper scrubbing the tiles while you are scrubbing your teeth, are present indulgences. We learn of and are inspired by the verbal vignettes that define our human stories.
There is another case to be made against hyper anxiety of the future. The future beckons through a foggy uncertainty. Exigencies ambush us. Our fetish for money partly stems from the ability of legal tender notes and investment portfolios to store value. Eventually, we hope to unleash this pent-up stash of cash before our lives are spent. But consider the certitude of present moments and perhaps we will learn to savor them.
The carefree holler of “YOLO!” skims over the depth of moments. For the moments that stick, the “you” that is the capital “Y” takes a backseat. The individual melts into the collective, and the shell of self-regard shatters.
The three-pointer that snatched victory from the grasp of our pasty blue rivals in Chapel Hill emptied dorms, common rooms and libraries of students. People congregated and chanted, “WE are Duke!” Men and women who lay down their lives in combat live on in the stories that get told and retold by their comrades. Moments become monuments.
Even a future-centric zealot should hesitate before scorning inefficient moments. In the long run, everyone is dead. That is our shared future. The moments we share with others now, however, coalesce into a legacy that lingers like the defiant embers of a doused campfire, refusing to go out. Appreciating the communal aspects of life requires an acute sensitivity that isn’t ridden rough shod over by the obsession with graduation plans. Such allows us to live on in the stories and memories of other humans.
All of us are hiking toward the heights of a brilliant future. The mountainous trail twists and turns. Novel and unexpected delights flit past us. These are fleeting moments that light up our fancy and wonderment. I’m still learning how to marvel at them, because they’re eventually all that we’re left with.
Jing Song Ng is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Tuesday. You can follow Jing on Twitter @jingapore.