Creating the Immeasurable One Sip at a Time
Our lives are a series of measurements. We measure the number of steps we take. We worry over the shifting cost of gas and a bag of groceries. We count calories. We check the number on the scale. We measure our clothing size. We measure and react to the number of likes our photos and posts receive. We watch how many glasses of wine we drink. With magazine surveys on a scale of one to ten, we assess the likely healthiness of a relationship with our parents, spouses and friends. We assess a doctor’s visit, a restaurant and a movie on the same 5-point scale. We also want to know the numerical efficacy of a vaccine and how far away to be from others.
We are obsessed with ranking the value of every aspect of our lives, and it is exhausting.
But, when the Coca-Cola Co. announced late last year the end of TAB soda, I recalled the immeasurable. I experienced a powerful rush of memories and emotions. The brand design and the commercial with a curvy glass of ice-cold sweetness came to mind. I felt the joy of summer and bittersweet feeling of loss. I flashed on the image of my mother sunbathing on the back porch in a halter top and shorts, her skin glossy with the warm, orange scent of Bain de Soleil. In her hands, she held up a piece of cardboard covered with tinfoil. I remembered with longing the yellow starburst design glass bottle of TAB soda. Bain de Soleil for the St. Tropez tan, the iconic phrase from a commercial that my friends and I chanted, was an overlapping memory. The full sensory experience — the flavor, the cold sugar and saccharine rush — reminded me of a song on the radio and hanging out with friends from the neighborhood.
All that from the name and image of a bottle of soda.
The memory raises questions that go beyond nostalgia. According to Britannica, the brain is constantly recording stimuli, input and experience. If we include the five senses, the brain receives up to 11 million pieces of information per second.
Today, ads and images appear and disappear so quickly, there is no chance to form a memory of a full-blown sensory experience. The more time we spend looking at a screen, the less time we have to form rich, sensual, multi-dimensional memories from firsthand experiences. A life on the screen is being modeled for our children and grandchildren, too.
Can we create a rich experience when taking a digital picture multiple times until it’s perfect? Images, ads and social communities online have come and gone over the past fifteen years, and I cannot recall any of them unless reminded. There are so many of them, so polished and worked over, of course, they are meaningless to me. They aren’t doing what they were intended to do. I’ve stopped seeing.
I think people and things mean so much more having lived, survived and changed. I reject the notion of perfection and never enough-ism.
One week, I went on a road trip in my county and experimented with a panoramic analog camera. My favorites had sunspots, or something cut out of the shot.
SURVIVAL OF THE KINDEST AND SMARTEST
In this past year and a half of emotional fatigue, we’ve had to reckon with our bodies, minds and relationships in a most unforgiving way. Whoever we are or wish to be, we know we cannot turn back to be who we were. We are gone. It would be like grasping at a shapeshifter. The push to work and shop, while welcome on one level, feels too fast in thinking about the profoundly sad and sobering loss of people. It makes me wonder where we are headed.
As for me, aside from waves of uncertainty and desire to feel better, it feels as if the trap door is opening and a chance to throw it wide open and run is coming. I’m not sure I’ll treat others better and appreciate life more in the coming months. I’d like to believe I’ve re-learned valuable lessons about myself and about trusting life.
This is the jumping off point in recreating our lives. Let’s nurture a spark of hope at the simplest level in our day-to-day. We’ve rested enough. Now is the time for thoughtfulness, courage and resolve. Now is the time to remind ourselves to live each day as best we can in all its struggles to create rich, tactile memories of the immeasurable — and to move the hell on.