Euphoric Recall



Euphoric Recall is the nostalgic version of Wishful Thinking. Only remembering the good parts is an understandable survival mechanism, but it doesn’t lend itself well to realistic decision making. It does a better job setting goals, but tends to minimize the difficulty in reaching them. It’s a great way to motivate a crowd, but a bad way to get through hard times, because the person who was once so enraptured now tends to fall prey to disillusion.

Who wants to grovel in world full of tedious reality checks when one could skip among the clouds? When Coleridge was having his opium dream about Kubla Kahn it took someone knocking on the door in order to convey a mundane message to spoil the whole fantastic vision. I’d rather be damned for being an enthusiast than praised for being a pragmatist.

The first explorers took to the seas with a minimum of technological support and a lot of wishful thinking. It’s hard to navigate when your map contains fanciful drawings of imaginary beasts and the text “here lie monsters.” They left port anyway, and even though half the crew often perished before the ship found its way home, everybody was in high spirits on the day they took off for parts unknown.

We are all doing this every day we’re alive, but we don’t realize it or admit it to ourselves, because it would be too upsetting.

I’m living in Thailand, a country with the highest motorcycle road fatality rate in the world, and yet the only vehicles I own are motorcycles. I like to think I’m well aware of the risk I take every time I leave home, but I’m not really, for habituation makes me drift into denial. “Sure, maybe it will happen someday, but not today,” I tell myself, or better yet, I simply don’t think about the possibility of dying at all.

I’m like Captain Cook heading toward Tahiti with a crew of drunks and enough provisions to last a few weeks.

In fact, no matter how much insurance we think we have to guide our actions, we’re all just flying blind. As Helen Keller said “The reason no one experiences security is because it doesn’t exist. Life is either an exciting adventure or it is nothing.” If a woman born deaf, dumb and blind can say that, I suppose I can, too.


The Illusion of Security and Resultant Wasted Time


Most of us are unconsciously but chronically waiting for circumstances to improve so we can be happy. We believe that we’re not quite able to be happy now, because problems and annoyances persist, but once they’re cleared up, then we’ll be content. This is foolish in many ways, but the greatest problem inherent in this line of thinking is that it dis-empowers us. It seems right, but it’s wrong. Happiness is a choice.

When I think of all the time I’ve wasted waiting for someone else to change, or to take some action, I’m appalled. Whatever risk I would have incurred by moving on would have been far better than patiently enduring whatever it was I was hoping would change. Risk isn’t so bad. Calculated risk underlies most achievements. Helen Keller said “The reason nobody has ever experience security is because it’s an illusion…life is either an exciting adventure or it is nothing.”

When Magellan circumnavigated the globe in 1519 he set off with that intention, but no real idea of how he was going to accomplish it because he had almost no knowledge of what was out there waiting for him. He wanted to find the “spice islands” and ended up losing his life in the Philippines. Only one boat out of the original five vessels reached home, and with only a fraction of its crew, but they did it. The first circumnavigation of the globe occurred because somebody refused to wait around for permission or certification or the illusion of security.