It is always now

16 December, 2013 - Monday

When I got back from Nebraska at the end of May, 2011, I couldn’t wrap my head around my emotion.  Between going back to Nebraska, seeing my parents had really sold the house and moved away to .. somewhere I don’t know where, exactly.. visiting certain places that really fucked my head up, and then coming home to my son graduating and lashing his tongue so harshly at everyone around him for the next year, it took a lot out of me.  I harnessed the stability and strength of my friends around me as much as I possibly could.  But it took me more than a year to get my head back in the game.

One afternoon in June of 2012, I came across the 2012 Global Atheist Convention posts on YouTube.  It was fantastic.  Great speakers, great talks, great panels. A lot of talk about Christopher Hitchens – his life, his outspokenness, his love of books, of people, of words.  A lot of people spoke about him.. Dawkins, Krauss among others.

And then Sam Harris came to speak.  And blew my mind.  And put it back together again in a way it hadn’t been in years.  He said he wanted to speak about death.  And he did.  He really did.  But, what he really talked about was life, and living, and the moment we have this very second.

I know I watched that video at least 5 times in a row.  I know that his words brought a solace to me that I had not felt before.  I know it changed me.  It brought a wave of calm over me that I needed.  And lit a bit of a fire under me at the same time.

the past is a memory
it’s a thought
arising in the present
the future is merely anticipated, it is another thought
arising now
what we truly have
is this moment
and this
and this

And this.

Thank you, Mr. Harris.

I’m not sure who cut this version of the video, but it’s my favorite.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCOCtO9lusU

 

it is always now
i actually want to talk
today about death
now most of us do our best to not to think about death
but there’s always part of our minds that knows
this can’t go on forever
part of us always knows
that we’re just a doctor’s visit away or a phone call away from being starkly
reminded
with the fact of our own mortality
or of those closest to us
now i’m sure many of you in this room have experienced this in some form
you must know how uncanny it is
to suddenly
be thrown out of the normal course of your life
and just be given the full time job of not dying
or caring for someone who is
but the one thing people tend to realize
at moments like this is that they wasted a lot of time
when life was normal
and it’s not just what they, it’s not just what they did with their time, it’s not just
that they
spent too much time working or compulsively checking email
it’s that they cared about the wrong things
they regret what they cared about
their attention was bound up in petty concerns
year after year
when life was normal
and this is a paradox of course because
we all know
this epiphany is coming
i mean, don’t you know this is coming?
don’t you know there’s going to come a day
when you’ll be sick or someone close to you will die
and you’ll look back
at the kinds of things that captured your attention
and you’ll think, “what, what was I doing?”
you know this, and yet if you’re like most people,
you’ll spend most of your time in life
tacitly presuming you’ll live forever
it’s like watching a bad movie for the fourth time
or bickering with your spouse
I mean this, these things only makes sense
in light of eternity
there better be a heaven if we’re gonna waste our time like that
there are ways to
really live in the present moment
what what’s the alternative?
it is always now
however much you feel you may need to plan for the future
to anticipate it, to mitigate the risks,
the reality of your life is now
this may sound trite
but it’s the truth
it’s not quite true as a matter of physics, in fact there is no now
that encompasses the entire universe you can’t talk about an event
being simultaneously
occurring here and one
at the same moment occurring in Andromeda
the truth is, now is not even well-defined as a matter of neurology because
we know that inputs to the brain
come at different moments and that consciousness is built upon layers
of inputs whose timing to have to be different
are conscious awareness of the present moment is
in some relevant sense already a memory
but as a matter of conscious experience
the reality of your life
is always now
and i think this is a liberating truth about the nature of the human mind in
fact i think there’s probably nothing more important to understand
about your mind than that
if you want to be happy
the past is a memory
it’s a thought
arising in the present
the future is merely anticipated, it is another thought
arising now
what we truly have
is this moment
and this
and this
and we spend most of our lives forgetting this truth
repudiating it, fleeing it, overlooking it,
and the horror
is that we succeed
we we’ve managed to
never really connect with the present moment and find fulfillment there because we
are we are
continually hoping to become happy in the future
and the future never arrives
even when we think we’re in the present moment we’re, we’re in very
subtle ways, always looking over its shoulder
anticipating what’s coming next
we’re always solving a problem
and it’s possible to simply drop your problem
if only for a moment
and enjoy whatever is true of your life in the present
this is not a matter of new information
or more information, it requires a change in attitude
it requires a change in the attentiveness you pay
to your experience in the present moment

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