It’s easy to seek refuge in possibility. Possibility is boundless and infinite. If you were to list the personal difficulties of here and now, you’d eventually reach an end. This isn’t so with the permutations of possibility.
We convince ourselves otherwise. Among the multitudes of possibilities, maybe there’s the silver bullet that’s going to fix everything. It’s enticing, intoxicating. We sign up to play one among limitless roles in the movie called What If, the movie that plays out in our thoughts in real time.
We walk around all day reciting the lines to this orchestrated script to ourselves. How often are we actually here? How often are we truly present, or just watching the movie of our life unfold in our heads?
Moreover, who is the actor in this movie called What If? Who is playing the starring role? Who is the speaker of these lines? Who is, as Sam Harris would say, the “thinker of these thoughts”?
For many of us, the self, or the ego, plays the starring role in the movie that’s playing out in our heads. This thing that we call a self, where does it reside? Is it in our head, somewhere behind our eyes? Is it in our chests? Is it someplace else? Does it exist at all?
Contemplating this question has driven people to both ends of a spectrum of delusion. Some become beasts. Some become pacifists. Most of us, myself included, fall somewhere in the middle. We take the drug, change jobs, or move to a new state because it’s easier to change roles in the movie called What If rather than opt to stop acting altogether.
We change roles, but is anything really changing? Is person behind the role not the same? Maybe he is. Maybe she isn’t. After all, who is the speaker of these lines? Who is the thinker of these thoughts? Moreover, by selecting a new role, are we any closer to having an answer to these questions?
Thankfully, we don’t have to keep acting. There’s another option. We can ask these questions. By asking them, we disrupt the movie playing in our heads. We stop reciting the lines and maybe we check in with our senses. Maybe we truly see a sunrise for the first time. Maybe we notice the hawk perched atop the telephone pole as we hurtle by at 60 miles per hour. Or at a minimum, maybe we stop scrolling through dozens of Facebook status updates and Instagram postings.
If the movie of What If has a theme, it’s escapism. Many of us are trying to avoid something. It’s easier to take a few steps backward, into the foggy, gray veil of thought -- to retreat back to the predictability of our role in the movie of What If -- than it is to be present with reality. We’d rather buy into the plot of What If, taking solace in the notion that there’s even a plot to be found in the first place.
Maybe we take a deep breath instead. Maybe we stop telling ourselves the story of how tomorrow is the day we finally slay the dragons that are breathing fire down our necks.
Instead, maybe we just feel the heat.