This is your Brain on Peter Benchley

Our text tonight comes from the Gospel of Jaws, Book 2 chapter six, "Sheriff Brody's Wife Talks to the Marine Biologist that She Eventually Bangs in a Hotel Behind Her Husband's Back while Sheriff Brody was Out Trying to Deal with the Big Fucking Shark that was Eating People":

"The past always seems better when you look back on it than it did at the time.  And the present never looks as good as it will in the future.  It's depressing if you spend too much time reliving old joys.  You think you'll never have anything as good again."

The reason this passage jumped out at me was that 1) it sounds extremely intuitive and my wife agrees with it and 2) it is exactly the opposite of how I feel.

I am usually happy.  I've spent many years with the Buddha "on the cushion" working to dig out all the snares and hang-ups and attachments that I've developed over the years and that continue to ebb and flow every day.  If at any point in my day I feel unhappy, I mean seriously unhappy, "suffering" to use the scriptural word, I devote (or try to devote) serious time (eventually) in finding out what attachment is causing this.

All of this spiritual braggadocio just means that I've worked my damn ass off to be a kind of person that is constantly striving for happiness (no, not "pleasure", Happiness with a capital H).  That's just my religious bag, baby.

The odd side-effect that I've noticed is that memories of past periods in my life, when I know at the time I was happy, seem so sad and miserable when I reminisce.  I'm almost always extremely glad that I've moved past that period in my life into the one I'm in now.

There are two possible explanations for this, both of which are terrifying because it would point to some hidden trick that my subconscious is trying to play on my conscious mind (we Buddhists are supposed to be all super-aware of our mental states).

1) The past seems sad because that's the way it actually was.  I thought I was happy at the time because I am subconsciously attached to the idea of being a Buddhist, and I know that Buddhists aren't supposed to be sad.  So I constantly delude myself into thinking I'm happy.

2) Since happiness is a relative state, and since the future hasn't happened yet, in order for me to see the present as happy I must see the past as sad, regardless of its objective reality.  Instead of delusion, this possibility would seem to point more towards some kind of spiritual misdirection, a Three-Card Mental Monty designed by my Id (?) to motivate me away from nostalgia and the romantization of the past.  Why would my inner mind be so guarded against nostalgia?  Am I attached to the idea of being the kind of person that never dwells on the past like so many people do, but rather lives in the moment like a good Buddhist should?

This is the shit I think about when I should be focusing on the big fucking shark.  It's going to get me good and maimed some day.

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