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.