“When we are mired in the relative world, never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted, incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words and ideas and abstractions – such as merit, such as past, present, and future – our direct, spontaneous experience of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision of this present moment.”
― Peter Matthiessen
One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is to live in the moment. It’s easy to get ‘mired in the relative world,’ caught in the mundane day-to-day living and forget the paradise from which we were expelled as we grew from children to adults. Children live in the Now, no divide between the real and fantasy. After all, children are the ones who believe by simply stepping into a forest, they enter another world. Children believe in ghosts and fairies and Santa Claus. They believe in the goodness of the world because they have never been taught the bad. I am, of course, speaking generally here as I know there are many children who are never allowed this kind of childhood. Even these children often live in fantasy, believing – hoping – that the one who abuses them loves them.
I understand the need for ‘words and ideas and abstractions’. We need these to survive in today’s world, but as Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes said, “I go to school, but I never learn what I want to know.” Where do children learn love and kindness and compassion? These traits are of the Now. Nobody learns love or compassion or kindness in the past or the future. And if they don’t learn these things as children, Now, where will they?
The world’s sadness comes from not living in the Now. We expect children to grow and become responsible, to forget the magical world of childhood, instead learning geometry and history and government. Important, yes, but why not art and theater and day-dreaming, too? The past is gone, never to be retrieved. The future will never come. All we have is each moment to exist in all the glory of the world, to come to know not only our own souls, but the soul of the world.
I believe we are all connected, deep down in our souls. We are one, you and I and the mountains and rocks and trees and animals. Science has gone a long way to proving this. After all, we are all made from the same building blocks of the universe: us, nature, chairs, tables, the food we eat. Children instinctively understand this. As adults, we have forgotten. We spend hours immortalizing vacations, children’s games, birthdays, Christmas, in photos instead of moving the camera from our vision to see the beauty now, moment to moment as it unfold. We run from our emotions, hiding them to avoid the pain, pretending our lives are full and happy and whole.
I know my life is not full and happy and whole when I am living in the past or the future. So how do we remember to take each moment as it comes?