The moral of the story is buffer

Takashi Murakami Enso
Takashi Murakami, Enso: Hachiman—Black Circle on White


The concentration of aromatics in a perfume seems to be important to how the perfume turns out. I happened to be reading recently some discussions about how if you make the concentration too high, you don’t end up smelling it as well. The ingredients are all crammed in there with no room for each to express itself.

Hence the wisdom of high proportions of “buffers” like Hedione, Iso E Super, Cedramber, etc.

We buffer in our lives better in some areas than others. Cooking time, for example, or travel time. Budget, even, sometimes. However, at least in my own experience, we don’t leave enough buffer in terms of time for personal development, adaptation to change, and the like—nor in terms of mental or emotional capacity to deal with things that go against us. At least not consistently.

As a result, every moment has no choice but to be characterized by doing and achieving something. (Consuming counts, too—through our mouths, or our eyes… that’s how most of us get by, most of the time.) Paradoxically, the burst of instant gratification from anything done or achieved becomes increasingly short lived. In an earlier, less on-demand era, I could derive several days of satisfaction from having completed a sketch portrait or other work of artistic bent. Now, it lasts barely 24 hours.

The other phenomenon is that there seems to be no room left for the cyclical nature of things. When the attention is hyperfocused on the here and now, feelings are amplified by the temperature of the present moment, and perception of our value is tightly coiled around what we are doing and achieving, it all gets… too concentrated. In this state, no single thing that’s going on in the picture has enough room to breathe, grow, and become known. And how are you supposed to address something if you don’t know it?

Imagine that you occupy a point on a large circle. If you look immediately in front of you along the circle, it can seem like a straight line if you can’t see past the wide arc. However, if you follow a straight line from where you stand, after some time you will have departed far from the curvature of the circle.

This is where you need to be conscious to the reality of the arc, and build the “buffer” to allow for a bit of bending so that you can finish the course of the cycle instead of derailing too far onto a trajectory you don’t want. For example, a minor, unexpected argument with someone you trust isn’t automatically destined to escalate into a full-blown hostility—although it can feel like it in the heat of the moment—that’s where instead of chasing that line, you need buffer to cool down enough to let things revert (note: not in a straight line) to the original path of harmony.

If we can’t see past the point where we’re standing, each step along the circle (translation: change!) is going to feel like a whole new trajectory—each long, in(de)finite, and scary. And who has the capacity to jump from one to the next, ad nauseum?

That’s it, then. Buffer.

A time buffer to let some things pass—especially in this age where humans’ attention span is supposedly less than that of a goldfish. And a space buffer, to keep a healthy distance from anything that might hijack the amygdala (because a lot of damage can be done in 18 minutes, if you let it).






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