One of my favorite jokes is about Big Chief Forget Me Not:
An Australian travel writer touring Canada was checking out of the Vancouver Hilton, and as he paid his bill, he said to the manager, “By the way, what’s with the Indian chief sitting in the lobby? He’s been there ever since I arrived.”
“Oh, that’s Big Chief Forget Me Not,” said the manager. “The hotel is built on an Indian reservation, and part of the agreement is to allow the chief free use of the premises for the rest of his life. He is known as ‘Big Chief Forget Me Not’ because of his phenomenal memory. He is 92 and can remember the slightest details of his life.”
The travel writer took this in, and as he was waiting for his cab decided to put the chief’s memory to the test.
“G’dye, myte!” said the Aussie, receiving only a slight nod in return. “What did you have for breakfast on your 21st birthday?”
“Eggs,” was the chief’s instant reply, without even looking up, and indeed the Aussie was impressed.
He went off on his travel writing itinerary, right across to the east coast and back, telling others of Big Chief Forget Me Not’s great memory. (One local noted to him that ‘how’ was a more appropriate greeting for an Indian chief than ‘G’dye myte.’)
On his return to the Vancouver Hilton six months later, he was surprised to see Big Chief Forget-Me Not still sitting in the lobby, fully occupied with whittling away on a stick.
“How,” said the Aussie, using the appropriate greeting for an Indian chief.
“Scrambled,” said the Chief.
I find my memory of past events is best when I am fully present in the moment. That is, the moment received my full attention. Details of the experience are more pronounced and relationships are more enhanced. Our culture makes it tough to be fully present in the moment. It wants us to move to the next one as quickly as possible. We end up skimming the surface of our experiences on our way to the next, new immediate one.
Time is a wacky concept. It is fluid, relative, and experienced subjectively (it can go either “fast” or “slow” depending on the task). The past is gone but its memory still lingers, and the future is out there somewhere and unknown. All we really have to work with is the present moment- a small sliver of time that is put before us over and over again every day.
You can make substantive use of the present by realizing that it is short and it is valuable. Awareness of those two features of the present moment can lead to long lasting significance. I dare you to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and admit to yourself you are going to die someday. That isn’t morbid, it leads to good stewardship of every moment of every day and keeps us from just skimming the surface of life and deeply anchors ourselves to it.