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Calm • Perspective

The Many Moods We Pass Through

We keep forgetting this lesson, even though it is – quite literally – written above us in the sky, as if someone at the moment of creation knew we’d have trouble keeping it in mind: we are made of moods, our spirits are constantly in motion, like the restless procession of weather fronts across a temperamental sky.

Therefore nothing can be stable for long: a serene beautiful day will, almost inevitably, be followed by an overcast one, a still morning by a blustery afternoon, a vicious storm by a serene sunset.

Ferdinand Hodler, Rhythmic Landscape, 1906

We keep striving for fixed positions, as if we were made of stone: this is what I believe, this who I like, this is what I want… And then the universe laughs and gives us a headache, a bad night, indigestion, a moment of euphoria, an energetic libido, a bout of conscience – and everything is once more upended.

We should proceed more cautiously. In the quiet of our minds, so as not to alarm those around us, we should caveat the majority of our ideological positions with a humble ‘for now…’ This job seems to make enormous sense… for now. I feel I’ve worked things out… for now. This is who I am… for now. None of us are ever more than a few shifts in serotonin levels away from a transformation of heart. 

There is in our changeability an almost comedic interplay between what we might crudely refer to as our bodies and our minds; our higher faculties and our basic plumbing. We may feel that our perspectives on politics or love, the quality of a book or our assessment of a friend are built on disinterested, solid ground. We feel sure that the nobler parts of us are guiding our ideas, we don’t recognise the extent to which what we are convinced of at a given point is really the outcome of how much sleep we’ve had or what is happening to our blood sugar levels. We’ll solemnly declare life not worth living long before it occurs to us that we may urgently need to have a nap or reach for an orange juice.

Keeping this at the front of our minds can help us to be more generous and accurate about those we live among. It may be – as they tell us with utter conviction at midnight in the kitchen – that they hate our guts or want never to see their mother again, or it might just be that it’s time to get to bed and a heavy meal so late was not a good idea.

Understanding that we are a patchwork of moods can be of particular assistance in those states when we can’t see a single sliver of blue in the inner sky. We should have the experience to know that even though we don’t – right at this moment – have any idea what will shift our condition, if we sit within the inner jet stream long enough and wait, something will eventually come along to push our horrors away. Just as, more sombrely, whenever we can no longer imagine any reason why we were ever sad, we should always remember the autumn gales.

We stumble because of our tendency to too quickly declare ‘this is me and always will be…’ It almost never is; it’s a heatwave, a squall, a shower, an Indian summer. We want to be solid and can be only air and water, gas and heat, current and front. We should take most of what we believe in at any single moment with wholehearted amused scepticism – and carry with us, always, an umbrella. 

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