What it means to live in “the spectacular now”

I just saw a movie with my husband, The Spectacular Now. I’ve never heard of it before, and I think I’ve only seen previews once. Anyway, it’s rated really high on Rotten Tomatoes for good reason. It’s not a typical superficial teenage coming- of- age story, quite the opposite actually, and it is done very elegantly.

The movie itself is captivating but the entire time I had no idea where it was going, what the main point would be, or how it tied to the title until the very end. At that point I felt like I had traveled a journey of personal growth with the main character, and maybe I really did because I felt very reflective at the end of the movie. It wasn’t a great situation for date night, but it was refreshing for me to think back to my teenage years.

I don’t want to give away some of the main dialogue of the movie so I won’t quote directly but at the end of the movie I was wondering if I actually embrace the good in my life- things, people, circumstances. Whenever we think of “carpe diem,” we think of pursuing actions/experiences that are amazing and extraordinary. But the whole point of the movie is to be appreciative of whatever is happening in life at this moment, whether it’s good or bad. Which got me thinking, am I mindful of things I should be grateful for, do I immerse myself in my relationships or am I too fearful? I decided I wasn’t a very mindful person;I don’t fully “live in the now,” if you will. To me, being mindful/living carpe diem goes beyond the actual science and involves cultivating an outlook that appreciates life and the people around me. As I’ve said before in my other posts, it’s not about what’s spectacular in my life, but what is ordinary in my life that is spectacular. Here are two examples of how I can groom my outlook to be more positive:

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In between becoming 21 and turning 30

A few weeks ago my husband and I went to a live comedy show featuring Jerry Seinfeld. The opening act was performed by a close friend of Jerry’s, Larry Miller. ( I feel like Seinfeld needs no hyperlink, and Miller is quite famous too, I just didn’t know his name.) Anyway, both comedians were hilarious- we were definitely laughing the entire time, and once in a while exchanging bashful looks that indicated all too well the feeling of “yep, that sounds about right” at any joke aimed at the “husband-wife operation.” 

There was one point in the show, however, where I thought I was having an existential crisis. Both Miller and Seinfeld made jokes about aging, Miller talking about how we phrase the aging process- for example, “turning 30” or “pushing 40.” The way we talk about it makes it seem like we’re talking about something bad happening which is beyond our control, indicating that our attitudes towards aging aren’t very positive. Seinfeld mentioned the irony of human evolution- how at the peak of intelligence after we are finally walking upright as a species, our biggest concern is finding a seat to place our cushiony bottoms wherever we go.

Which got me thinking, aging wouldn’t be so bad if we did more with our time than count our days or fret about how best to be comfortable. Aging could be a way to measure our achievements. I don’t feel sad at approaching 30- the third decade is where a lot of important milestones happen which indicate that people have grown up, matured, made good decisions- things like having a baby, buying  a house, or buying a car. Some people are even well on their way in their late twenties. Why then the existential crisis?

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