A Story About Oblivion for Short-lived Gratification

The Popcorn Effect

4 min readSep 7, 2022
A picture of a boy lying on the bed with popcorn in his mouth, others in his hair and on the surface around him. The image depicts getting lost in the popcorn
Photo by Altin Ferreira on Unsplash

Science defines the popcorn effect as when particles bounce at varying speeds and heights based on size. And this happens when they’re exposed to electromagnetic vibrator-controlled high frequency and variable temperature. In layman’s visualization, it’s the way the corn that pops bounces up and sometimes out if there’s an opening. However, I decided to conjure up my interpretation of the phrase, deriving from eating popcorn.

After making a heart-warming, salted, warm bowl of popcorn and sitting down to catch the next episode of an exciting series, what do you concentrate on more? Often, I find myself, and I’ve observed others, too, totally oblivious to the movie. Yes, I’d be looking at the screen, but reflecting on the moment in hindsight; usually, my mind is more lost on the popcorn than the movie. The hand adopts a mind of its own, reflexively moving rhythmically from the bowl to the mouth, feeding the mouth more and more as if the popcorn will run out. The mouth, in solidarity, involuntarily opens and closes, taking in one popcorn after the other, oblivious of table manners and the art of biting or chewing only once done with the current batch.

And God forbid if one were to fall on the ground. With eyes staring at the screen, the hand will grope for The one, yet there’s still a whole bowl of popcorn! And if I don’t find it, I place the bowl down and search for The one first until I bring it back home.

Suppose you were an outsider watching yourself eating popcorn like this; you’d be surprised how this snack engulfs you until you seemingly forget yourself and civilization for a moment. Speaking for myself, eventually, my hand will return to the bowl only to be greeted by the shock that there’s no more. Then I am reminded that I was watching a movie, which I’ll rewind to where it was before the popcorn arrived with its rude but sweet interruption.

And this scenario makes me ponder…

How often do we forget what’s important and choose short-term gratifications? — Metaphorically, getting lost in the popcorn only to ignore the movie.

And how often do we leave our important tasks pending to chase a fleeting non-essential item? — Figuratively, searching for the dropped corn when you still have a whole bowl.

Or, how often do we forget our blessings because we’re chasing after someone else’s luck or an abstract reward?

What this does is that it wastes your time and chances for improvement. In the end, you return to resume the movie that is life, or a project, long after you should have finished it. Sometimes, you’ll be hit by the shocking realization that what you were chasing was only temporary, and you should have instead built what you have and would’ve made tremendous progress by now.

A Swahili saying goes, “usiache mbachao kwa msala upitao.” It translates to, “don’t throw away your old rag for a borrowed mat.”

So, as you eat the popcorn that is life’s distraction…

Remember what’s important.
Remember your priorities and the end goal. Only then will you refocus or consciously eat the popcorn and multitask accordingly.
Remember not to drop the ball and chase after things that don’t add value or only yield short-term meaningless pleasure. In this scenario, the art of delayed gratification comes in, which requires a great deal of willpower and the realization that you’re giving up the short-lived for a more significant and permanent benefit.

A picture of someone lying down, holding a remote in their hand and eating popcorn, with others spilt on their chest and around the bowl.
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

You’re Eating Popcorn When…

You’re eating popcorn when you choose sleep over getting up for that scheduled workout…
When you invite negative thoughts and regrets rather than breathe and look for solutions, you’re chasing popcorn…
When you choose the movie over studying for the exams, there comes your popcorn moment…
You’re eating popcorn when you prefer fast food over your healthy diet just because the former is sweet, and you blame it on a cheat day

There are many examples based on your life’s goals, priorities, and choices.

And if you’re not careful,

In the end, you’ll be left with tantalized tastebuds, a short-lived pleasure, and an empty bowl, craving for more popcorn while the movie has moved on, probably ended. You’d have to start from where you left off, play catch-up, maybe pick up pieces of lost opportunities here and there, or exhaustedly run after a distant ship that has sailed, for time never sits still in wait. Neither do opportunities, goals, dreams, and ambitions.

A picture of a distant ship in the ocean, to depict chasing opportunities that are gone and you now have to chase after.
Photo by Jørgen Håland on Unsplash

So eat your popcorn, but do so wisely, consciously, and remember not to forget what’s important. You can always pop more corn but can’t recover lost time and opportunities.




I see extra in the ordinary & use words to paint it; fueled by a quest for mental health. Lover of forests, fitness, nature, good food & reading & a coffee snob