No Time Like The Present

I have from time to time featured quotes brought to mind from reading books.  A lot of these have come from reading John Schettler’s Kirov series of novels, of which I am currently into the 46th volume. 

This thought captured my attention, perhaps because it sounds… sounds… I can’t immediately come up with an adequate word/phrase.  See what you think:  

“One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today.” ― Elizabeth Elliot 

Schettler, John. Ice War: The Next War (Kirov Series Book 46) . The Writing Shop Press. Kindle Edition.

OK. Let me first say that my first thought was – “yes, that’s true, and we do live in a world that is harried and hurried, and we do need to focus on legitimate concerns”.  But think a little deeper.

In fact, concerning ourselves only with today, our day is meaningless and directionless.  And it ends with the end of the day, starting again completely anew the next day.  Really, a pointless existence.

I can see and understand what Elizabeth Elliot is thinking, and yes there is truth in what she says, just as there is some level of truth in everything.

But consider this.  What can be achieved today if there is no plan, no goal, no sense of getting somewhere.  I’m talking of worthwhile achievements.  Doing things that have a purpose.  Yes, I can wash my dirty dishes.  Yes, I can sweep my floor.  Yes, I can clean my teeth and comb my hair.  All of which can be done without recourse to memory or direction within the confines of today.

Is that all that life is meant to be?  No, of course not.  But to be anything more than that requires both memory and purpose.  Memory can only be gained by reflection, and reflection requires a ‘past’ – an avenue to previous experience – an awareness of ‘yesterdays’.  Proceeding from that, purpose and direction, both joined at the hip, also require yesterdays, but also a deep awareness of the present – today – in order to anticipate and plan for beyond the horizon of the end of the day – which I suggest is the only thing that gives meaning to life.

So, concerning ourselves only with today, to the exclusion of everything else, I think is a very limiting outlook.  Looking back, if only for reflection – not for dwelling there – is a very necessary part of life.  And so is looking forward, based on current and past experience.

A balanced mind will not be one that is stuck in the past, to the extent of neglecting the present and the future.

A balanced mind will not be one that is overly concerned with the future, to the extent of neglecting the present or the past.

A balanced mind will mindfully remember, plan, and live, taking into account all experience, good or bad, past or future, and carefully stepping through the present.

In any case, while it is possible to anchor ourselves (philosophically) to some point in the past, to our own detriment and also to dream away our present looking for some unattainable future, it is impossible for the human mind to contain itself to the here and now in any real sense.

Now, confusingly perhaps, I’m going to say that everything I have said to this point is false.  It is, conceptually at least, very real and it stacks up (though some may disagree) in terms of human experience, but our entire human experience – whether we like it or not – is in fact only perceptual illusion.

There is no ‘time’, whether conceived of as past, present or future.  Time does not exist in isolation, and makes sense only in relation to ‘space’, or as we have come to describe it –  ‘space-time’.

Take a few minutes to watch Professor Brian Greene (the man who taught me almost everything I know about quantum physics through his book “The Fabric of The Cosmos”) explain what I mean in this YouTube clip:

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