Janice Lin/MiC.

Are you sure you wanna read this? Are you absolutely sure devoting your undivided attention to these next 2,000 words is worth your precious time? Cause for Christ’s sake, there’s laundry to be done! Assigned readings, hoards of homework to complete and you might work soon, have plans at noon, need to leave in 20 cause you gotta go to the gym, or go meet up with him, her, them, and then, there’s probably a couple hundred other unfinished tasks to still fulfill in the back of your mind, while time obstinately unwinds as you find yourself slowly itching to close this tab, turn from this page, and now, move on quickly before you miss out!

Yeah. We’re all familiar with FOMO, aka the fear of missing out. We tend to associate it with social occasions, seeing it often as the occasional missing out on a party, performance, club, concert, family event or function. In reality, however, our feelings of FOMO are much more ingrained, much more deeply felt day-to-day in a collective culture whose baseline behavior operates from fear. We might feel the fear of missing out from missing a single class of a course, missing a single workout during a week, missing a shift of work, a deadline, any and every affair where we feel like our presence is better suited in an other “there” than wherever we are in the moment. 

Death is at the crux of every fear, rearing its wicked head, leading me to believe that our culture’s falsely construed fixation on the fear of missing out is most closely tied to our intertwining fear(s) of biological and socio-cultural death. Our increasing secularization has taught us to fear death as a result of our ongoing after-life apathy. Now, every instance of isolation is an evanescent evisceration. Paralyzed by the possibility that the world can — no — that the world will go on without us, our egoistic desire to be important impedes the all-encompassing realization of our impermanence. And it is absolutely egoistic, this desire, that damns us to a world of perpetual haste, unrelenting worries about time “wasted,” compulsively primed social media usage and the constant idea that we should be doing some thing, some where, elsewhere, always. 

We think, if I don’t do this, how else will people know I exist? How else will they know I matter? And if I don’t matter to others, do I even matter at all? All our separating, individualizing ego leaves us to do is chase so chronically an everlasting differentiation from others. Earnestly, we draw upon the energy of Else, erroneously inflating our sense of Self. Without a firm solid grounding in Spirit, we sprint to evaluate our worth via others ofttimes through the nescient, worldly lens of normativity. So similar is the theory of the looking-ass, sorry, looking-glass self in which we tend to base our sense of self on the perception of others. Our current collective spiritual deficiency makes it difficult for us to be alone, to resist the lure of our feeble vices, of our phones and electronic devices, since when left to our own (analog) devices, we are, now, ruthlessly unable to recognize the abundant Source endowed within us by our Creator. 

Should we tap into our Creative power and opt to operate not from worldly timelines of lack, pain and fear, but instead, from a flowing, ever-presencing meeting of the moment, then we would more keenly know, feel and re-call our divinity on the daily, our arriving towards destiny and the revolving remembrance that every minute is alive with meaning, purpose and prosperity. 

It is this knowing as feeling through re-calling allowing us to realize that there is, in fact, an abundance of joys to missing out — since in reality, we are never missing out — in the moment. In the moment, at this moment, we are all always arriving at our destination, on the path toward collective liberation, transcendence and oneness. We may take detours as the damning dictates of late-stage capitalism may curtail. Nevertheless, every single one of us, by virtue of being alive, is — more or less — righteously moving along on the way to our final destiny. 

This is why the fear of missing out is anything if not silly. We are one of billions of beings having the most complex multitudinous experience at any and every moment. There exist dimensions, planes and realms we cannot even conceive of which we are bound to explore upon our death, having explored before our life, and beyond. So, what exactly aren’t we missing out on? This conscious life is rich. Our spirit is eternal. We are timeless in totality, yet all the while totally attached to this idea that some thing is missing. We must understand that the unruly forces of capital via consumer culture and white supremacy manufactures this sense of missing out as an antagonistic, egoistic endeavor of mass programming and corporate control. 

They say: Yes, you should be consuming more! You should be drinking more, going out more, traveling more, doing more, more, more — and frankly, you’re not doing enough. You’re not consuming enough. Consider consuming more! 

More often than not, our compulsive consumption is a heavy indicator that we may be out of alignment with our true self. Neglecting the flow of cyclical time, its sacred implications for solitude and reverie, we much rather buy into the linear myth of always looking forward to what we may be missing out on. When we’re working too hard to attain academic, occupational, financial or social gain, it is typically not a symptom of subsistence and survival out of necessity, but of ego, struggling to be seen, seeking approval, praise, popularity and validation. 

I feel this most when I am rushing. Any time I am rushing, I remind myself to stop. I realize, instead, that the stratified socio-cultural constraints of clock-time imposed by the coercions of capital blatantly want me to believe I am missing out. As if I must be on time, in this space, at this place, or else people — professors, pupils, friends, family, co-workers and/or collaborators — will forget me. Or think I look bad, am bad or view me as lesser. Yes, our ego fatally leads us to believe that if we are (even perceived as) lesser … it will lead to our social death, which we’ve so heavily entwined with our biological death, nonetheless. We are always arriving in the moment, always able to align ourselves with our destiny. Thus, this idea of rushing, hurrying and worrying about running out of time is, as we know, outdated. 

Of course, emergencies, deadlines and disasters do occur, and we must adjust our lives accordingly, but returning, in essence, to this knowing as a feeling through re-calling allows us to more accurately assess what situations are eminently pressing versus artificially stressing. The knowing in this sense, entails listening to our body, our physical body as part of the soul expressed outward, in connection with our greater astral bodies. Our physical body is always communicating information to us on the most subtle energetic level. Our soul, existing out of time, already apprehending eternity, conveys this knowledge to us through our sensory impressions as feelings which in turn allow us to cognitively re-call who we are in the moment. 

In a quantum context, our thought-forms inform and shape the neurophysiological inner-workings of our body-brain inter-actions in space-time (which is why healing from bodily trauma is so pertinent to connecting authentically to Spirit). Plainly put, our thoughts shape [our] reality. Of course. This is nothing new! Nevertheless, we must renew ourselves, consistently, with this knowledge, reframing our recurring fear of missing out as joy. We can feel joy knowing we are never missing out but only tuning inward to the Self in the face of solitude with bliss.

I had this experience for an extended amount of time during the New England Literature Program in spring 2021. Nestled away in the woods of New Hampshire with 52 folks for six weeks, without any drugs, alcohol or digital devices, I was able to experience authentic sobriety, solitude and a unique connection with Source that I’ve yet to replicate coming back. Stripped from such vices, the program did not come without its voracious niceties. There were certainly times in which I missed my bountiful bud(dies…) or desired the aimless distraction of my phone screen. But the realization of a remote, rustic life simply lived, and simply put, undeterred from the detriments of late-stage industrial capitalism’s mass-programming matrix remains a mode of being I continue to crave on campus.

If only it were that easy … on a campus of 40,000+ folks in an atmosphere rife with worldly affairs, wealth, exclusivity and ego, the allure of it all is certainly enough to lead us into temptation, tepidly torturing us into constructing the cruelest preoccupation with what we could be doing. It’s the most creeping feeling on a Friday night, the chill villainous voice muttering in the crevices of our mind, orating about what we ought to do with our most transient unstructured time (aside — of course — from going to see your favorite improv troupe in Angell Hall Auditorium A at 8, this 28th!). We’ve fully stratified into clock-time an unwavering commitment to grind culture during the academic/work week, thus it seems our short-lived weekend release from the cognitive load that academics dutifully endows into our weekdays entreats us to feeling as if we must do some thing spectacular with that time-of. And with the content of campus, of culture and our options limitless, it is simple to see how easily we can be overwhelmed, pressured into participating in socio-academic rituals of reckless consumption.

Sometimes deep down our spirit may feel the axiomatic joys of missing out but remain unable to actualize them due to the distinctive tendency of our soul to be attached. Our soul — infinitely complex and paradoxical — as Jungian psychotherapist Thomas Moore maintains, “wants to be attached, involved, even stuck, because it is through such intimacy that is nourished, initiated, and deepened.” On one level we may want to go out, explore and do more, more and more, not from a place of gluttonous desire but from honest curiosity, excitement and joy. Yet at the same time, our souls, as Moore puts forth, also do not necessarily attach to what could or will be, but to what is actually happening in the eternal now moment. In this vein, when our attachment exists as a linear longing for particular outcomes, events or experiences — rather than a critical engagement in the present — then it is not a soulful attachment but, perhaps, a more depraved, egoistic one. 

This is most evident with the way we so often manipulate our social media to make our life apocryphally appear more exciting to others. It is as if we, too, are stuck in this matrix of mass programming, attempting to impose our own mythical, manufactured fear of missing out on everybody else. At a university so large, in a universe so grand, no wonder we feel pressure to prove whom we are spending our select time with and what we are spending our select time doing is worthy. But all this does raise the question: what should we do with our time? 

This question, when considered heavily, harks back to the four existential questions of origin, purpose, morality and destiny. It is indisputably difficult to determine what constitutes time well spent. I certainly felt this, over the summer where I spent nearly most of my time back home in Kalamazoo, Mich. I remember wishing I could venture out and explore the world as many of my peers from school were but I’ve never had the financial resources nor felt necessarily safe traveling Queer and Black. I’ve yet to really roam outside of the U.S. and have rarely been outside the state of Michigan for more than several weeks at a time. In the summertime, I feared, at first, I’d be missing out, once again, but over time, I came to realize there was an abundance of opportunities for me to tap into at home. It ended up being a summer of considerable spiritual growth, as I focused on enriching my physical well-being, curating and cultivating my creative works, copious reading, writing and re-connecting with my family and childhood friends. Unexpectedly, those experiences this past summer emphatically shaped me into who I am at this moment, today (which is awesome). 

Also awesome is Moore’s chapter on home in his book “The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life”, in which he discusses how we spend much of our life making a home. He claims, “modern life favors work, social engagement, travel, and the development of a career over the needs of home,” thus, eroding our soul’s aforementioned need for stable attachment. Nonetheless, we’re further warned by him not to make a dualistic demarcation between home and adventure, assuring both are always available to us. Moreover, Moore hones in on the fact that home is ultimately not merely about location but about aligning with the right place, empowered by a sense of belonging. 

I think of all this similarity with the fear-inducing prospects of new homes, career and post-college life in my future. As a pre-service secondary educator, I’ve incessantly been informed to expect little pay or respect with respect to my peers in STEM, law, business or medical professions. And every once in a while, I admit I’ll feel this creeping fear that my peers will surpass me in financial prosperity and furthermore in general well-being. When I feel myself beginning to believe this, I stop. And remind myself that, one … I am already more broke than most folk on this campus (and still filled with bliss). And two, “missing out” on a career path in teaching that is meaningful, anti-capitalist at its core and able to provide a direct impact on an interpersonal level to the lives of young people every day for the sake of pursuing a more lucrative profession than education would make me even more remiss, especially considering the corruption and corporatization inherent in many of the more money-making industries and fields (not to say the public schooling system isn’t with it’s rife with its own ideologically repressive blights [cause let’s be real…] but that’s an article for another time…). 

I do believe that money can buy happiness. But that’s just it: Happiness, which as we know is ephemeral, hedonistically inspired and tired. I’d love to make enough to have means of subsistence without compromising my values, and I feel cautiously confident I can do that within my future occupational pathways, which is why I no longer am buying into this myth of missing out on a “stable,” “lucrative” or “comfortable” career. I know from four years of witnessing first-hand the successors of financial success on this campus, the sons and daughters whom remain wealthy, well-traveled and privileged, that no amount of material gain can compete with nor sustain the bliss which comes about from intimately connecting with our Creator, deliberately aligned with our destiny. Money may buy happiness, but bliss cannot be bought (neither can enlightenment, peace or serenity). We cannot purchase a purposeful life. 

The joys of missing out remind us just that. Eagerly, we let our ego, no longer allowing it to run the show of shame and fear, now, with the knowledge of feeling as re-calling our true selves. With this in mind and at heart, we must remember that we are never truly missing out if we attend to the present moment with bliss. And for that, we are blessed.

MiC Columnist Karis Clark can be reached at kariscl@umich.edu.