details and destinies

Do you enjoy your life? Are you looking forward to tomorrow? How much time do you spend thinking about the past? How often do you try to integrate the possibilities you may have had in the past, with the future you find yourself in right now?

One of my all-time favorite novels is Les Miserables. My love for that work is, in large part, due to its treatment of destiny. Victor Hugo states that destinies can hinge on trivial details, such as whether someone is sitting or standing in a given moment. That’s a powerful thought.

I think that most people look back into their pasts and use the really big events to figure out how they got to wherever they are. Generally, I think that is a very narrow and counter-productive perspective. One’s true path to the present is more than likely comprised primarily of details.

That’s not just an idealistic postulation – it’s a mathematically grounded claim. The truth is, most people remember very little of their life. Thousand of moments are forgotten for every one remembered. You can no more interpret your present life with your sparse memories, than you could guess the content of an interesting jigsaw puzzle with a handful of pieces.

Let me tell you what you need to do if you want any hope at all of explaining your life even ten years down the road… You need to remember more of the details. Focus on all those trivialities of your life that you have heretofore neglected to even notice.

Stare into your steeping cup of tea and make yourself remember the way that the color disperses into the hot water. Listen to your orange juice cascading from its jug into your glass. Capture in your mind the weight of the next fork that you chance to use or the smell of your toothpaste. Never forget the way a loved one hugs you when you walk into their home. Seize the details of your life, because they are what comprise your life.

I think you will notice, if you pay more attention to those otherwise lost moments, that Victor Hugo was indeed correct, though possibly not strictly in the sense that he intended. Those details very well may change your life. At the very least, regarding them will enrich your life. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Your future lies before you, unknown to you.

Whether a man notices or neglects the details of his life—destinies hang upon such a thing as that.

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