Imagine Your Loved One’s Face Two Hundred Years From Now
A built in feature of human psychology is the illusion of permanence, the idea that we have all the time in the world, infinite time to work on our projects and commune with the people we care about. Listen to most love songs and you’ll hear the same refrain, which is that those lovers are going to be together forever.
Rationally we all realize that time is short but as Spinoza once put it reason is no match for the passions. Our irrational Selves run the show, despite what we tell ourselves, and our irrational Selves believe that we’re immortal, that the rules of life and death don’t apply to us or the intimates who surround us.
While this secret irrational certainty of personal immortality serves to keep hopelessness and despair at arm’s length, most of us pay a heavy price for it in our relationships without even realizing it, and this price is that we take for granted all that which we believe will continue on unchanging forever.
So the insight of impermanence, while painful, automatically compels us to move towards our loved ones with love and gratitude. We let go of our impatience and pettiness when we fully realize our time with the people we care about is finite. Next time you’re upset with your beloved try it for yourself. Imagine your loved one’s face two hundred years from now. As macabre as it sounds, try to picture the skull, the bones, the fact that time has continued on and left that precious person behind. Your irritation, anger, and other negative feelings will dissipate, instead all you’ll want to do is be around this person, hug this person, talk to this person, do something fun with this person. That’s the power of the insight of impermanence on relationships. If you accept some death anxiety into your psyche your reward will be a heightened sense of love and gratitude, both for your own existence and for your precious opportunity to spend quality time now with your loved one while you still have the chance.