by Max Sirak
I spent my 20s working in bars and bookstores. Really, what this means is – I read a lot and I drank a lot. And, over the course of all this reading and drinking, I even managed to learn a thing or two. So, today we're going to talk about making a good drink and living a good life.
One of my favorite reads in my 20s was Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd's, The Time Paradox. One of my favorite drinks in my 20s was a well-crafted margarita. Now – I know what you're thinking, “A margarita? How pedestrian…” and “The Time Paradox? I've never heard of it…”
The book is all about how “attitudes toward time have a profound impact on your life and your world, yet you seldom recognize it.” (The Time Paradox) The drink, when done right, is about the most delicious thing you can put in your mouth on a summer's day. And – as luck would have it – the recipes for how to best think about time and how to best make a margarita are pretty damn similar.
Our attitudes toward time are broken down into our thoughts and feelings about our yesterdays, our today, and all our tomorrows. A well-made margarita has three dominant flavors: citrus, tequila, and accents.
Boyd and Zimbardo divided how we approach time into six potential perspectives: Past-positive, Past-negative, Present-hedonistic, Present-fatalistic, Future, and Transcendental-future.
I divide the components of a delicious margarita into six possibilities: fresh-squeezed citrus, store-bought sour mix, real tequila, tequila-flavored liquor, agave nectar, and salt.
Your Yesterdays – Your Citrus
Is where you've come from and what you've been through holding you down or raising you up? Is the tart taste of your cocktail going to come from a store-bought jug or from fresh fruit you squeeze yourself?
None of us can change our past. All of us can change how we interpret it. You could have lived through the atrocities of war, the horrors of abuse, or any number of awful circumstances, but what matters most is the story you tell yourself about it. Does looking back make you feel strong and confident about what you've overcome? Or, does looking back make you feel like a weak, defeated victim? That's the choice between Past-positive and Past-negative perspectives.
Past-Positive – Fresh Squeezed
When you look back over all your yesterdays, is it easier to remember the fun times? Do you feel good about yourself? That's the Past-positive at work. It's the way of viewing your past as empowering scaffolding to your present and future. It's the healthy interpretation of what's transpired, regardless of what did, giving you the feeling of secure roots and a solid foundation.
This is your fresh-squeezed oranges and limes.
Past-Negative – Store-Bought
Is all you can seem to remember when you look back are the bad times? That's the Past-negative. It's a perspective of defeat and powerlessness. It's a victim's story where you, the main character, are constantly reminded of the opportunities you missed, not all you made. It's viewing your past as pessimistic blueprints for your today and tomorrows. Thoughts like: “What's the point?” and “It's all my fault.” are the common refrain of the Past-negative.
This is your store-bought sour mix.
Your Today – Your Tequila
Do you choose to embrace and enjoy the pleasures of life while doing what you can to avoid the pains? Or, do you go along with whatever's happening because nothing you do matters anyway? Do you prefer a nice reposado? Or, would you rather choke down some Cuervo Gold?
You can sum up the two major ways of viewing today with one of two mantras. “C'mon gimme more” or “Que sera sera.” Both typify their respective perspectives. One clearly belongs to someone who is enjoying him or herself and other's indifference shows through.
Present-Hedonistic – Gimme the Good Stuff
Babies are probably the best example of Present-hedonism. They single-mindedly move toward what feels good and away from what feels bad. They gulp down as much pleasure as possible (oftentimes, literally) and cry when uncomfortable. Adrenaline junkies, drug addicts, and anyone who is “the life of the party” embodies this attitude toward today. It's the sex-positive, live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse mindset.
This is your 100% blue agave tequila.
Present-Fatalistic – Whatever…
It's like Camus said, “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” The Present-fatalistic answer is it doesn't matter, just like your all your choices. It's the view that everything is fated and outcomes are decided by forces well beyond your control. Which means there's no sense in making active choices because the results will inevitably be the same anyway. It's a stance that robs your agency and gives you apathy in return.
This is your tequila-flavored liquor (like Jose Cuervo Gold).
Your Tomorrow – Your Accents
Do you get routine physicals, save money, and keep appointments? Do you believe in some sort of life after death, a divine plan, or that we all have souls? Do you like your margaritas balanced? Or, sickeningly sweet? Salt or no salt?
Unlike your yesterdays and today, your tomorrow is a bit different. The two principle perspectives here aren't as binary as Past-positive/negative and Present-hedonistic/fatalistic. You can be both Future and Transcendental-future. There's no opposition between going to heaven and going to the dentist.
Future – Necessary Sweetness
Planning ahead, delaying gratification, and investing are all hallmarks of the Future perspective. It's the orientation of the industrialized nations, quarterly projections, and “responsible adults.” In fact, a case could be made the main role of early education is breaking children of their Present-hedonism and indoctrinating the culturally-condoned Future mind-set. Either way – caring about and believing in a better tomorrow is an important ingredient to living the good life.
This is your agave nectar.
Transcendental-future – Optional Salt
The Woo-wwo. It's not for everyone. And, even those who it's for, can admit a little bit goes a long way and too much can ruin about anything. This is the perspective of New Age healers, hippy-dippy yoga girls, suicide bombers, and anyone who would describes themselves as religious or spiritual. It motives people to do things today, in this life, for rewards tomorrow in the next.
This is your salt.
Alright – now that we have all our ingredients arrayed before us – let's start mixing…
Margarita – Fill your glass with ice. A good mixed drink always starts with enough ice.
Life – Breathe. Much like it's hard to make a good drink without a full glass of ice, it's hard to live a good life without full lungs.
Margarita – Now it's time to add your booze. Grab the bottle of delicious 100% blue agave tequila. Leave the imitation, tequila-flavored liquor at the store. Fill your glass about half way. If you go too light then you're missing the whole point. If you pour too heavy then you might be in danger of having too much too fast.
Life – A healthy dose of Present-hedonism is necessary for enjoying life. It's where all your pleasure resides. It's the home of the simple things. Warm breezes, tasty food, sexy caresses, and even the enjoyment of accomplishing are found in the here and now. Just like there's no reason or room to use an inferior tequila, there's no room or reason to be fatalistic about today. And, much like the tequila in your drink, having too much focus on today is dangerous and not enough isn't even worth it.
Margarita – Use a 2:1 ratio of fresh squeezed limes and oranges to fill your glass almost to the top. Yes, it's much easier to use store-bought sour mix but it's also gross. We're making the best margarita we can here – not half-assing it. Juice that citrus.
Life – When it comes to looking back over your yesterdays you have two main directions to choose. You can ruminate on all that went wrong and was unfair. You can tell yourself the story of how it's all your fault and how you ruined everything. Or, you can glance back and appreciate how far you've come. You can recognize all you've been through, those that've helped and loved you along the way, and how now is beautifully built on then. And, much like the citrus in your cocktail, having too much focus on your yesterdays gives you the sour taste of being stuck in the past.
Margarita – At this point you should be staring at a glass nearly full of neon. And, if you take a sip, it's going to pucker your lips and burn. To cut the tartness we're going to add some agave nectar. Put just enough in the glass to see the level rise. Dump the contents into a shaker and give it a good once over. Take a sip. Is it sweet enough? If not – add a little more. But go slow because you don't want to ruin your cocktail. If you like salt – take a piece of your already-squeezed citrus and make a loop around the rim of your empty glass. Pour some salt onto a plate, grab the glass at the bottom, flip it over, and give it a good twist.
Life – In order to balance the flavors of your yesterdays and your today, you need a little tomorrow. Understanding there are things you can do today to make the oh-so-uncertain future less burdensome is crucial. Believing there are actions you can take now to bring about a better tomorrow fills you with hope, optimism, and motivation. You need a little Future orientation to live a good life. However, being too pre-occupied with your tomorrows leads to anxiety and fear. It produces the entirely too common feelings of being trapped in your head and not having enough time. As for the Transcendental-future, much like salt on your glass, it's not for everyone but some people need it. Having faith in a higher power or divine plan can make any suffering you're going through now easier to bear. But having too much can lead to Present-fatalism or a complete devaluing of this life in favor of the next.
OK – Now What?
Now it's time to live and drink and play. Just as we all have unique tastes and preferences for our margaritas, we also have an individual balance of time perspectives. Chances are you're aware of the former and unconscious of the latter. This is why Zimbardo and Boyd came up with the ZTPI – the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory.
Go here. Answer the 61 questions. Get your baseline blend of time perspectives.
Oh – don't forget your well-crafted margarita to sip on while you take the test…