The Aspiration Trap.

Asked what’s important to them, us First World folk generally get all misty eyed about some ideal cornucopia of future possiblities. Its all such an interesting adventure that the depressing underbelly of the beast gets ignored.

and its depressing because its always about tommorow.

and tomorrow never comes.

Sometimes our aspirations can get a bit like Insurance. You shore up against Life’s woes with a cunning plan for a better future, forgetting that you have just made a bet with the Universe that something bad is going to happen to you. So anxiety increases despite your new found safety.

It seems like a sensible idea, planning for the future, and it probably is when you are six and can’t decide if you want to be a fireman or a farmer. The problem is that we then collectively continue to wonder about what we’d like to be when we grow up…

for the rest of our lives.

We then give this evasion of life a pedigree, the Bucket List. To be a humdinger it must comprise all kinds of unrealistic and even fantasy expectations of oneself ..

which is why folk are generally as depressed as their list is long..

..and with good reason.

Because there is invariably this tacit assumption that ticking off the list is when your life really begins.

Having life begin at some totemic future moment is a mixed bag of voodoo. My friend’s dad bought a helicopter, his ‘life long dream’. So, he flies it over to my friend’s house and lands it in the garden.

‘What do you think?’ asks the dad once the engine has whined down enough to be able to hear yourself think.

‘Oh it’s great’, says the younger man, it’s just that your values haven’t changed for forty years.’

hard but fair.

Its not your fault. You have been sold redemption as a future’s market since you could crawl. With so much focus on what life holds in store, life as-it-is ceases to count for much, like waiting for a bus, for the next bit of real life to come along, something you always wanted.

This means that the real freedom, which is to do gladly what must be done in the here and now, cannot be entered into, because Now is what the Bucket List is secretly pitted against.

‘Life is what happens to you whilst you are busy making other plans’. J. Lennon.

and cannot help but be experienced, not just as dull, but as intrusive and disrupting, the table with our precious map and carefully laid plans being repeatedly overturned, which is why the realm of wishing making it so is also the land of paranoid anxiety.

I think I’m being robbed all the time and I am, by me. So focused am I on the horizon and beyond that the immediate abundance at hand seems not to exist.

“If you focus too far in front, you won’t see the shiny thing in the corner of your eye..” Tim  Mandin.

So why do we collectively obsess over lottery ticket jackpots, exotic locations, selfies of daring-do? To appear more interesting? As a prop for a shaky self construct? Or has the pursuit of happiness just been hijacked by Consumption?

Or, all of the above.

The West certainly seems to feel that Novelty and Choice are constitutional rights, forgetting that this is invariably at someone’s expense. What life should be like and its fantasy of continuous contentment means bread from another mouth.

so its quite a price that is paid

for the sake of magically keeping life on hold. After all, if life only begins when my plans for it prevail I am kept safe from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, protected from all the goblins and dragons I am now free to become in the lives of others.