What is now?

What follows is an incomplete blog post inspired by this article by film critic Roger Ebert.

What is now?
Many self-help “gurus” will tell you that the key to happiness is living in the present – but what does that really mean? I think what they mean is that you need to be with yourself in the “now,” in the current constant motion that passes. But I feel like there’s something missing to that. Inspired by this post, I want to challenge what being present means.

First off, for there to be a “present” by necessity there must be a past and future. Just like there needs to be a concept of dark for there to be a concept of light, there also needs to be a concept of lived-time and to-be-lived-time if we are to consider current-time. So if that’s the case, living in the present means living with a conscious understanding of the continuity of our lives: that our now is only significant as much as it acknowledges our pasts and futures.

In my ancestral culture (Chinese), we pay respect to our elders and those who have come before us – as we do those who are born after us. There is some connection to a bigger picture, a timeline that is happening on the macro level yet lived on the individual level. And I think the leap that we took in our Western society (the colonized world dating back to Ancient Greece) is that we think it’s always been about the individual. That because we can only seem to experience things as individuals, that that must be the fundamental quality of reality.

Getting back to the yoga article, I think that where we veered off as a society was in separating pieces from wholes. To understand the benefit of exercise we’ve teased apart an entire way of life embedded in a culture thousands of years old so that we can fit it into our daily schedules. And yet, do we really benefit in the long-run because of it? Maybe we’re missing something.

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2 thoughts on “What is now?

  1. I absolutely love this! I totally agree that the western world is totally missing something when it comes to living in the moment in its truest form. To truly live in the moment one must learn contentment and acceptance but how can one learn these things? You learn them from experiencing the past but also with hope looking towards the future. I agree that most cultures even my own celebrate the community and those that came before them. Its not about being better than the next person but becoming better in its own sake. Its forgiving urself from pain of your past. Its by learnin from the lessons and mistakes of parents and other elders. I truly feel that once the western world accepts the idea of the community vs the individual then this country can truly move forward in all social forms.

  2. Thanks! I was particularly inspired watching a clip of a documentary on the ancient forests of Haida Gwaii (off the coast of British Columbia) in which the Haida people have allowed their villages to return to the earth after being devastated by small pox: beams of their fallen longhouses and totem poles participating in the cycle of life. There was an understanding that although an entire culture has been stripped of their roots and numbers, this has happened to peoples around the world for time untold. It was so sad to see a culture die, and yet live on through a film following musicians who went to experience the forest, ruins, and its history.

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