First there is MOVEMENT: Something happens in our lives, something shifts, slips, advances or evolves. It may be a big event, a tiny incident, someone’s passing comment or a nearly imperceptible change in the environment.
Second, there is SENSATION: We feel or experience something physically – a twinge of pain, a flood of heat or cold, a clenching or emptiness in our body, a vibration or fluctuation we can’t name.
Third, we have A THOUGHT: We consciously or unconsciously identify the sensation and assign some kind of reason or meaning or value to it.
Fourth, we have an EMOTIONAL REACTION to the thought: It may be a flash or wave of a certain feeling or it may be a combination of them – grief, fear, anger, irritation, shame, nervousness, hurt, desire, relief, etc.
Fifth, there is BEHAVIOR: We take some kind of action or reaction, verbally, physically or attitudinally – either to stop the feeling, escape it, or to do something else about it.
Of course, in real life, this evolution is not so neat and ordered. All these events may seem to occur at once, or in a confused jumble. Also, the impacts of our behavior invariably set up new movements and new sensations, thus initiating new cycles.
However, with the smallest and with the greatest happiness there is always one way in which happiness becomes happiness: through the ability to forget or, to express the matter in a more scholarly fashion, through the capacity, for as long as the happiness lasts, to sense things unhistorically. Anyone who cannot set himself down on the crest of the moment, forgetting everything from the past, who is not capable of standing on a single point, like a goddess of victory, without dizziness and fear, will never know what happiness is, and, even worse, he will never do anything to make other people happy. Imagine the most extreme example, a person who did not possess the power of forgetting at all, who would be condemned to see everywhere a coming into being. Such a person no longer believes in his own being, no longer believes in himself, sees everything in moving points flowing out of each other, and loses himself in this stream of becoming. He will, like the true pupil of Heraclitus, finally hardly dare any more to lift his finger. Forgetting belongs to all action, just as not only light but also darkness belong in the life of all organic things. A person who wanted to feel utterly and only historically would be like someone who had been forced to abstain from sleep or like the beast that is to continue its life only from rumination to constantly repeated rumination. Moreover, it is possible to live almost without remembering, indeed, to live happily, as the beast demonstrates; however, it is completely and utterly impossible to live at all without forgetting.
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