I love the show Ted Lasso. It’s not the easiest to access because it’s on Apple TV, but if you have a chance to watch it, you will be glad you did. It’s about a D-league American football college coach, has no knowledge whatsoever of soccer or its rules, hired to coach an English football (soccer) team. Hilarity ensues.
He teaches a player on the team a phrase: “Be a goldfish.” This is after the player, Sam, blows a goal attempt that cost the team a much needed win. Goldfish have a memory of about 10 seconds, then everything beforehand is forgotten. When it comes to these failures, “be a goldfish.”
I also have a guilty pleasure: I love trance and dubstep techno music. There’s a song by Tritonic called “Born Yesterday.” I listen to it a lot; in fact I’ve got it on repeat as I write this blurb. It’s a celebration of allowing oneself to treat our former selves almost as a stranger. “It’s like I was born yesterday, and now I’m seeing the world with new eyes… I woke up and I found out that anything can change, now I’m not afraid to live like I was born yesterday.”
Both quotes speak to me in many cases, like when my long memory reminds me of past failures, or people I struggle to love in my life. When I have anxiety attacks about the future, overthinking every possible angle. These things remind me that both of these tendencies derive from a desire to be in control. To keep things the way I think they ought to be, or to reenforce a way of seeing myself and the world that more often than not sabotages the fulness of life.
To be a goldfish is to stop allowing memories to get in the way of the present. To live like I was born yesterday reminds me to never lose sight of the wonder of life, of the world, of every step we take in life. Their wisdom lands us in the one and only thing we ever truly have: the present. They are counterintuitive in a world that tries to keep us locked in a rhythm, or in tendencies to make life fit our perceptions of it.
The past and future are states in which we do not live. It’s not a bad thing to have long-term memory: it allows us to treasure and learn from what has gone before us. It’s a good thing to plan for the future: to not do so can be disastrous, especially when our choices impact more than just ourselves.
That said, the present, which is ironically always in motion, is what we know. What is the present showing us? What memories do we need to hold onto, and which ones do we need to forget? How does the present teach us how to approach our future? When was the last time we were truly present in the present?
I hope this meditation inspires you the way it does me as we prepare ourselves for a very intense Lenten journey next week. When memories that hamstring us pop up, be a goldfish. Live like you were born yesterday. Have the courage to defy the things that keep us from embracing the present that God is giving us, and the incredible possibilities it affords us. Let’s embrace that present in a way that we never have before.