Self-titled albums often come about as a statement of pinnacle acumen or an essential turning point in a band’s career (e.g., Avenged Sevenfold by Avenged Sevenfold). As a writer for my new blog endowed The Anthill Moment, I am comfortable with my decision to entitle my first post in the same respects. This ensures that you know I am on top of my game from the get-go. I already know that this is one of the best blogs ever created – and I created it. You can imagine how I feel. All arrogance aside, this concept of the “anthill moment” is very dear to me and I would like to initiate a conversation on your behalf. I am certain this topic will set the stage for many of my future musings.
Several months ago, I was speaking with a former coworker, friend, and intellectual confidante. As Achmad and I delved into the second half of our conversation, which is always philosophical in nature, I proceeded to voice my concern on the experience of single moments in time. For our purposes, let’s define the word moment as a relatively short, specific place in time where the value of the experience, including general location and company or lack thereof, does not fluctuate significantly. So I told him, oftentimes, it seems I find it difficult to feel fully present in a given moment. There are times when I cannot internalize or grasp the full potential of a single moment’s experience, specifically an experience that should really be quite pure and enjoyable. I am sure that you will come to empathize. Let me elaborate…
Consider a moment when you were hanging out with a group of friends. You’re catching up, cracking jokes, and making good conversation; but something is holding you back. In the back of your head, there is a persistent shoulder tap which keeps reminding you of an impending project, your current life circumstances, recent regrets, or a general desire to be elsewhere.
Or consider a time when you went for a walk with the intention of finding peace and quiet, but instead you became stuck in your own head and the beauty of your surroundings became void. Does this sound familiar?
What is an anthill moment?
So in deep, contemplative, Thoreau-like thought, I continued…
“I wish that I could lie down by an anthill for one hour and observe a colony. To watch the workers perform their duties. To lose myself in that moment. To observe the ants and simply be that action of observation. To forget about any past, present, or future encumbrance. To simply enjoy the moment. I could learn about their physical features, habits, communication techniques, and travel routes. But learning about the ants is not my concern, though it’s a spectacular bucket list item. It’s quite a Daoist idea. To become the action, not in a mystical sense, but to become completely present and fully immersed through some involuntary neglect of self. To lose track of time itself. It’s the concept of complete and total surrender to a moment – a peaceful bliss, a perfect epiphany. A buzz on the here and now.”
And just like that, the anthill moment™ was born.
But what would an anthill moment look like practically? I have a very literal depiction of an anthill moment that I would like to share with you.
A Fire in Colorado
In June, I took a 2-week round-trip out West with my brothers.
In a Jeep Liberty with no air conditioning…
Words could not do the experience justice, but alas, our itinerary was such:
- Buena Vista, Colorado
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
- Helena & Missoula, Montana
- Portland, Oregon
- Redwood National Park, California
- Robert Mondavi Winery, Napa Valley, California
- Santa Barbara Beach, California
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
During our stay in Buena Vista, we took our lodging under the stars. A good friend of a good friend kindly opened up her backyard for us on the second night.
Three hours to sunset and we were enjoying a game of Spikeball just outside of what some may call a cabin mansion. It was warm outside. The breeze was cool and inviting.
Me and the crew…
… split off for a walk in this prairie land called a backyard. Now keep in mind, snow-capped Rocky Mountains like these peaked just beyond the tree line.
While walking through the field, I noticed a large mound of ladybug-sized rock grains, its diameter spanning 1.5 feet, about 1 foot tall. Upon closer examination, I found that it was a fire ant hill. A blanket of red ants were scurrying to and fro, from top to bottom. I scanned the area and saw that anthills like this one protruded every 20 feet across the open field. Elated, I called out to the others. This was our moment! Our opportunity for a true anthill moment.
We spread out, occupying four anthills at once, and began to observe (Anthill moments are most often found in solace). Crouched down, my arms resting on my knees, I took mental note of every little detail. I would not waste a second of this serendipitous occasion.
Small weeds embraced white flowers along the outer fringes. 2 small, slit-shaped holes vertically embedded the very base of the anthill. The red creatures claimed no rest, constantly moving, dipping up and down, staggering along the sides of their Rocky Mountain. On the outskirts of the hill, where the scattered plucks of grass met tempered dirt, a large and shiny black beetle scurried intently, his shell bouncing up and down over each bump. Just below my figure was a burrowing hole of some sort. Clinging to the underside of this dirt lodging was a slick-looking spider with a yellow star painted on its back. A single aphid crawled up a single tuft of prairie grass. That 3-inch area of dirt held the three green strings firmly rooted in place.
The buzz began to take root, this sense of utter euphoria. I was becoming a part of this moment as if I was the last piece to a confounding but beautiful puzzle. I was content in this moment, time had disappeared, and nothing could change how I felt.
That was short-lived.
Suddenly, Nathan (pictured above) yelled a slurry of disjointed words that I would have never thought to combine in an entire lifetime. Silence remained for 3 seconds before we burst into laughter, assuming he was the victim of a minor fire ant attack. I regret that decision, later to find an ant had crawled onto his foot. He quickly threw his sandal off and in sequence, his bare foot plummeted into a clump of cacti with a thicket of unforgiving spines.
I think that this is an apt metaphor for these elusive moments in our lives that seem to slip away daily. Were there not snow-capped mountains just beyond the tree line? Was there not an array of Colorado beauty to behold? The feeling slipped away so easily.
This is a humorous comparison, but parallel it with your own life; how does something so beautiful become so fleeting? It seems that valuable moments can so easily become the periphery of our time here on earth, no longer our primary cognitive experience. There is a spectrum of experiential stimulation. It spans itself across this landscape of the human experience. This is how we label our experiences: based on how they made us feel; it’s how we associate our good experiences with positive feelings and vise versa. I believe that anthill moments in their purest form are at the end of this spectrum. When these impertinent thoughts cause our mind to go adrift, our experience potential is diminished. We lose sight of what really matters. The beauty before us. The here and now.
How do I find my anthill moment?
The anthill moment is a rare phenomenon. You may have enjoyed one in your lifetime and not even realized it. It appears more frequently now that I am consciously aware of the concept. Nature and solace are conducive to the experience, but it can just as easily occur with friends in an urban setting. It can seldom be actively pursued; it happens involuntarily and without warning. It is often unexpected. This is not some mystical Eastern concept. This is the idea of experiencing Creation as it was meant to be experienced.
So how do you have one? Be aware of the concept. Practice mindfulness. Share your experiences with your friends. Ask them if they’ve had any recently. Be prepared to embrace it when it occurs. When synchronicity and serendipity align, leave the camera behind and embrace The Anthill Moment.
If you find yourself interested, here’s a poem depicting a real borderline anthill moment that I had during my last semester of college.
Rolling hills on a Kentucky day and lavish spring air
The only commute that I have to worry about today is from flower to flower
A corkscrew of paths leading me from one bench to another, a terra firma of lush ellipses
I sit for a while and the sun takes rest on my left shoulder, basking my side in warmth
I breathe in the smell of lavender and I can almost hear the budding of the dormant plants come to life
I look for the scented source and see a sign with weathered fringes which I approach in good will
Underlying the tree, it reads, “lavender twist weeping redbud”
The flowers smell nice so I lean my head in and examine the twisting pink blooms, overturning each other in kind
The ripe limbs are laced in close-knit loops, as though a young child had given a good effort in tying his hand-me-down shoes
I don’t fear the bees anymore like before, but evermore the child, I examine them as well
I stand and revel at the thought that I no longer fear the bees, but invite them to surround me
I bask in their quarter-sized shadows, a collection of survivalists dancing in the spring air
Some things still find beauty in their work, it seems, and I am content to see nature unfold before me
And my examining – no longer based in fear, but supersensible wonder!
A viand of sceneries has set the table for one ample afternoon and so I move on to the next grand view
A man on a bike passes by and I hear a couple approaching from behind
They are probably talking about mundane things and that’s okay with me
I don’t wonder about it too much; they both are sporting silky athletic shorts
The kind that whistle and zip with each forward extension
Walking in pace with one another, I hear their rubber soles tread the concrete path
Soon they pass by and I am left a minute or two to ponder
A jogger has slowed down, his gray shirt all in a bundle of sweat, his heavy breaths lapping the air
As we cross paths, we examine each other’s faces and exchange hello’s
We both go our own ways and I admire his motivation to better himself
For an inkling of time I think about why he runs, and what drives him
And then I think about what drives me, in this most timely and passing exchange with nature.