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Prime Time

“What is past is left behind.

The future is as yet unreached.

Whatever quality is present

You clearly see right there,

Right there.”

-Excerpt from The Bhaddekaratta Sutta

There seems to be the notion among us of trying to achieve all of our career and life goals while we are in “our prime”. The notion that there is some point in our development, in which we are perfect, or nearly so. The notion we should constantly be working towards this idealized version of ourselves, and once attaining it, never allowing it to slip, lest we fail, fall, vanish into irretrievable obscurity, and dissipate like fog on the breeze. Game over, you're out, see you next lifetime, maybe. Many of us believe this to be true. We buy it, hook, line and sinker. We can become so fixated on this ephemeral, unrealized future version of ourselves: the “One Day I”, that we can't see past its all-consuming image. It is a towering barricade over which we can espy nothing. As we fixate on this imaginary idea of perfection, we begin to neglect the tangible, real, present version of ourselves: the “Now I Am”. We forget to exist in the present moment, and postpone what we should be attening to. The present moment being, after all, the only point in time we ever truly experience, and therefore, the only point in time in which we have any degree of control. What do we mean by our 'prime'? Here's what Mirriam-Webster says (excluding definitions of hours of the day, mathematical formulas, musical scales, or the quality of beef at the supermarket): PRIME [Noun] 1-The most active, thriving, or satisfying stage or period. 2-The chief or best individual or part. So, the definition of 'prime' then, is essentially whatever is 'the best part, or the part most satisfying'. Satisfying to whom? To you, of course, the artist. What is “best” or “satisfying” is of course subjective in any case, and may be defined in various ways: physical, intellectual, emotional, financial, etc. Our prime then, is by it's very definition subject to, and varied by the context against which it is measured. In life, as in art, the tool must be suited for the task. One may be the strongest person in the world, but it won't help you to solve a calculus equation, or talk someone off of a ledge, or pay for that next set of headshots! Throughout our careers and our lives, our toolbox, which is to say, ourselves, may undergo some variations. It is up to us to use our tools wisely, and if we do so, then it will be satisfying, and we will always be in “our prime”, no matter the period of our life. In Greek philosophy, there is the notion of Forms, as defined by Plato. In a nutshell: there is an idealized notion of a given thing, and all of the physical things that we see in the world are lesser versions of this idealized state. That is to say, that things have a certain essence which defines them. The nature of a bowl is to hold things, the nature of a weapon is to kill, etc, etc. What about humans? I suppose that the nature of humans is to change, to adapt ourselves and our environment so as to be in synergy with our needs. It is our nature to question, to wonder, to wander, to adapt. As artists, we are in a constant state of change, because it is our nature to create, creation being a foundational pillar of change. Ironically, we are often terrified of change. Art doesn't exist in the future. It must exist now. It is impermenant, temporal and ultimately, it is fleeting, however well preserved or protected. The act of creation happens in the now, and when it is done, it is over. On to the next one. We collectively applaud Picasso for his Guernica, Dali for his Melting Clocks, Olivier for his depth of character. But the fact is, that these artists and other “greats” simply created unceasingly, in the present moment, without thought to past or future, and after many, many iterations, the world finally took notice. Then, they learned from their processes and adapted their practice to their next creation, rather than fixating on the one they just completed, or others they may hope to complete at some unknown date in the future. They weren't concerned about the past, because generally, it will speak for itself and doesn't need much help. They weren't concerned about the future, because it always arrives, whether we want it to or not. Why then, fixate on arriving, worry about “when I get there”? The corner office, making partner, the red carpet, tenure. These are of course all achieveable, but they are not ends in themselves. These postitions, however coveted, are not the end of the journey. The finish line is an illusion. There is no there, there. The work is never done, because the work is a part of you. So, instead of worrying about what to do with the prime of your life, perhaps focus on having the time of your life. If you can do that, you will worry less about where you are headed, and instead, can concentrate on the joy of the journey.Think less on progress, think more on process. The process is you.


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