I was sitting outside on our deck this afternoon, working hard at avoiding doing anything productive, when that damned voice in my head spoke words that I’ve been hearing way too frequently lately: “This moment will never come again.” The message was so clear it almost made me go back to my computer and get back to compiling the footnotes for the rewrite of my first book. Almost.
Because, with a little more pondering of the Unfathomable Mystery that is our cosmos, I was able to tell myself: “So what matters is the moment, not what transpires in it.” Hence, lounging lazily in the warm sun is as momentous (using my special definition of the term) as is typing intensely at my desk, working on finishing the footnotes.
After all the news of the 9/11 hearings, where the phrase “hair on fire” was uttered many more times than it had any right to be, I paused before I used these words in the title of this posting. It seemed too much like meme-littering. But then I recalled the phrase’s noble Zen heritage. George Leonard says that these were words of instructions to a medieval samurai: “You must concentrate upon and consecrate yourself wholly to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair.”
Well, I’m still in the simmer stage. It’s amazing how often I walk away from my parked Volvo and then walk right back to it, not being sure whether I pressed the “lock” button on the key fob. Where’s my fire-in-the-hair concentration? Frequently, in a memory of a past moment or an anticipation of a moment to come. I’m missing the moment that is really here right now, the only moment that truly exists.
I’m an advanced student of the theory of momentology. However, I’m still a neophyte in the practice of this all-important discipline. Theory and practice go hand in hand, though, so I’m hoping that what I’ve read on this subject will someday translate into direct fiery experience. My favorite essay is Luther Askeland’s “The God in the Moment,” a chapter in his highly recommended book, “Ways in Mystery.” (Obtaining this link, I just saw my laudatory Amazon comment—one of the few I’ve written, which shows how much I like this book).
These excerpts I found on a web site don’t do justice to the complete essay, which nears an end with these words:
“The truth is that we are all too often back at the beginning, back where this essay and the Pascalian analysis begins, back, that is, with the moment itself and our unease about it, back with ourselves and our more or less confounded minds and divided hearts, back with the relentless impulse to just cover this discomfort, or pain, with sights and sounds, memories, experiences, actions, projects, dreams, other pain.
So it is that in our spiritual lives—the goal of which is an infinite journey toward God—it is the very first steps that we must repeat again and again. And so it is that we are continually brought back to the same dilemmas, conflicts, and choices. Shall I fill up the moment and simply blot it out with memories, or with the future, or just by doing anything at all, or shall I try to look directly at where I am right now and what my condition is right now?
...This is the choice we face, or evade, each moment. It is the choice between filling up the moment or attending to it. It is the choice whether we will have a life or something else, whether we will dwell stretched out across time, or somewhere else. It is the choice whether to live in what can be said and thought, or to seek the real.”
So many. So fleeting.
‘Always more where that came from.’