Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Losing Touch

A lot of thoughts raced through my head this morning as I stood on a crowded NYC subway train. All trains were running slowly this morning, and I had the pleasure of standing for about 20 minutes on one of them with little or no movement. The crowds were particularly dense because of the delays, so I was in many ways very very close to complete strangers and forced to stand still in my cramped position for an extended period of time.

What I thought about wasn't the situation itself though. I tried consciously to think "far" thoughts, about the long future, work goals, life goals, even weekend goals. I know now that if I let the "near" thoughts of the people and the train intrude--and they did so regardless--I could experience some pangs of anxiety. After all, this was not a typical situation, even by NYC standards.  Mostly, I was successful in staying calm.  But note that I didn't stay this way by thinking how the situation wasn't bad (or trying to negate the very real anxiety that the situation could create in my short term mentality)--that would give too much credence to the situation I think.  Instead, I focused in the future, far.  I wasn't in real physical discomfort, though it was hot, so there was nothing keeping me there except for the other passenger's eyes searching for a place to go themselves.

Another quick thought: past relationships.  Past experiences.  We had them, and somehow they no longer hold salience.  There may be fond memories, pangs of nostalgia at times, good hopes for others in a general way, but when you've truly lost touch with someone--and I mean someone that you were previously intimate and romantic with, and I also mean lost touch as in no desire to talk--I think the amount of mental energy dedicated to that person is drastically lowered.  Part of it must do with the fact that the relationship is in the past, and that we've evolved to concentrate mostly on future conditions, patterns in the mist at our feet right now so that, and this is pure speculation, past relationships simply don't have the pull or tug at our brains that current ones do, unless there is unrealized desire to go rekindle them--not something I have.  What is remarkable is how easy those relationships thin out in our brains, how many rich rewarding experiences lose their texture, their gravitas--and of course, the caveat here is that, once you start to plumb your memory for these experiences, the texture will thicken.  So my note here is how truly absent absence can be.

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