YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=t48Rx82HmCU
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Uploaded:2021-07-27
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In which John watches the sun set over Lake Michigan and tries to slow and thicken time.

This video is part of The Sunset Series, a set of videos looking at horizons that goes back to 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t48Rx82HmCU&list=PLMs_JcuNozJZGEB6-cYbcY1aG3CrjG0_v

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Good morning Hank, it’s Tuesday.

You told me once that bad news tends to happen all at once, catastrophic events, sudden losses, dramatic reversals, whereas good news often happens slowly. Well, here’s some good news happening slowly.

The sun is setting here on the western shores of lake Michigan, known in these parts as America’s 3rd coast. I just read a wonderful book by Julia Baird called Phosphorescence in which she writes about the importance of savouring experiences. Taking the time to really enjoy something, like to really taste an Oreo, or to really watch the sunset.

Baird cites several studies linking savouring to well-being and that does align with my experience. I’ve had years where many wonderful things happened that I found impossible to enjoy or even meaningfully take in because I lacked the time or psychological wellbeing to properly savour them. And then I’ve had days like this one where I’m well enough and moving slowly enough to savour the simple and routine wonders that are always around me, like the sunset.

The one daily phenomenon that for me anyway, never gets old. Like most things, savouring takes practice. It also takes time.

Slow time, thick time. The kind of time that is required to see the good things that do not happen all at once. This is, it must be said, not what Youtube is known for being best at.

For years, I’ve edited nearly every breath out of my videos because in this hyper distracted information landscape, even a half second pause is often enough for someone to think “I should check out one of the other 72 tabs I have open.” But here is a breath, take it with me if you can.  I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking and writing about how we go on, especially in the context of mental health challenges. But of course, how we go on is profoundly linked to why we go on. We go on because despair may be powerful, but it’s untrue.

There is light in front of us, in front of all of us. We go on to help those we love, including those we don’t know but still love. And those who aren’t here yet but will be someday.

And we go on because life is beautiful, because our lungs were made for this air. Life isn’t merely beautiful of course, it is also awful and painful and unjust and much else. But none of that can negate its beauty, or the gifts to be found in savouring that beauty.

So much of the time I’m obsessed with what’s next and with feeling busy and feeling like I need to be deeply engaged with the quickening pulse of the right now. Like if you go to Twitter, before you write anything in the box, the box says “what’s happening?”. And I’ve long wanted to know what’s happening, I’ve wanted, in truth, to be part of what’s happening, but so much of what’s happening isn’t happening fast.

It isn’t news, or even new. Nobody’s tweeting about it. It’s water rolling in and rolling out, the sun is setting and rising.

Lives being lived. I wish you could be here, Hank. Not just for the site of it, but to smell the pine trees.

To feel the wind on your skin. But then it occurs to me that wherever you are there is also air and sunshine and the sun will set tonight. And I hope you have a few moments to savour it.

Hank, I’ll see you on Friday.