Oh, I very much understand the appeal! Why wouldn’t anybody want to be loved forever, cherished forever, protected forever… guaranteed that certain good things will be forever??
Problem is, there’s quite literally no way to fully guarantee it. Ever notice how this always seems to be most true when it comes to the things that we really really want to last forever? Trying to accommodate heavy desires to climb the Mt Everest of “forever” puts a lot of stress on those desires. Even when such desires are coming true now, we’re constantly looking over our shoulder to make sure that nothing threatens them – more occupied with the fear of losing “forever” then the enjoyment of the desire being met now.
Additionally, even as we may rest our minds on the rock-solidness of “forever” where we find it, sometimes our desires change. Sometimes, what we used to want forever, we don’t anymore. It loses its value. “Forever” loses its value. And though there are some times when, at the end of the day, some things are proven to have been forever in the context of a person’s life (“she never gave up her love of books,” for example), there is no way to guarantee beforehand that any of this will be the case.
The thing is, we are not forever beings – and I don’t just mean that we are all going to die, either. Even in life, we change. We shift. Biologically speaking, our cells are always dying and being reborn and remade. Our bodies are not static vessels – they are dynamic temples of constant change and ferment. Our hormones fluctuate like crazy over our lifetime, even if at a certain point in life they go through a good long stable period. We get sick, we get lucky, things happen unexpectedly, we get shifted, and we find ourselves and our desires changed. Life experience shows those who pay attention that this is not always such a bad thing.
To say “forever” is to make some pretty uneducated predictions about the far-flung future. I often say that it is incorrect to say “forever” about anything until you are lying on your deathbed. Of course, you’ll say what you want to say. But I still advise not to confuse the strength of a feeling in the moment with the duration of its existence:
- Replace “forever” with “for the forseeable future.”
- Replace “till death do us part” with “as long as this shall last.”
- Do not turn any “no” about the future into “never.” The correct positive interpretation of a future-oriented “no” that you don’t want is “not now.”
If there is one thing that the frenzied pace of modern society is teaching us, it’s that adaptation to change is necessary. Those who get too ossified in the comfort of their own constancy are unfortunately ill-equipped to make the most out of life when it takes a turn they weren’t expecting. And that turn can come from anywhere – job situations, loved ones, illnesses, changes in desires/outlook, political/social shifts, deliberate decisions with unintended consequences, and so on.
Stability is very crucial, indeed. But stability in a given moment does not mean “forever” by itself, even if we like to think it does. I do not fault someone for identifying positively with a situation that [s]he wishes would last “forever.” This momentary feeling is ok – as long as it does not stick around “forever” to become a state of mind.