Be here now. Thank you Oasis for planting this phrase into my head twelve years ago with your sub-par third album.
I’ve spent a lot of years of my life stuck way too deeply in the past, or worrying about the future. In fact, when I first began to go through a huge period of self-discovery in high school, I started to get afraid that I would forget significant events in my life. So, I started journaling. Compulsively. I meticulously journaled the details of every day of my life from January 1, 1996, until about May of 2001. That’s 5 and a half years of writing down everything that happened to me.
Why did I do this? I knew that life had meaning. I could *feel* it. But the exact nature of that meaning? It eluded me. It seemed to arrive in unexpected ways that I could neither predict nor hold onto. So I thought: Maybe if I wrote everything down, and was very careful not to miss anything important, then I could figure it out.
Maybe you’re not as obsessive-compulsive as I was in this respect. But I think all people sense that there is a meaning to life, and spend at least some of their days grasping at it. A book of the Bible says that God has “set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they can not fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” That really captures it: I can’t fathom it, but I spent much of my life trying.
Over time, I found that all of my strained efforts to “figure out” life were actually keeping me from experiencing it. I couldn’t experience something exciting or emotional without immediately thinking, “I’d better remember this; I’ve got to write it down later”. I became detached from my life as it was happening, and became more of an outside observer. I couldn’t *enjoy* a great conversation with a friend, because I was already worried about forgetting it.
Ironically, a moment in my life that I’ll never forget is the moment that I decided to *stop* journaling. It was May of 2001, shortly after my graduation from college. I was sitting on a picnic table at Firefighter’s Park in Troy, where I grew up. I had realized – for some time – that my anxious efforts to fathom and organize all of the meaning in my life were keeping me from really living life. I stepped fearfully into what felt like a terrifying void: a day where I just let things happen, not letting myself be concerned with evaluating their significance and holding onto every event.
Be. Here. Now.
Presence. In many ways, this is what life is all about. We experience true life when we fully incarnate ourselves in THIS moment. We connect with our friends and loved ones when we set aside distractions and let ourselves really BE with them. And, most importantly, we enter into relationship with God when we engage with him in the here and now.
God himself connects with us by entering into the present with us, because we are creatures who exist in time. In his most intimate revelation of himself, God became a man, taking on flesh, binding himself to the particularities of place and time. And in that life, Jesus urged us to join him in the present: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
There is a powerful secret here, in Jesus’ urging us to not be lured by the temptation to indulge in worries that lead us to live our lives disconnected from the present.
I’ve learned a lot about “presence” as I’ve meditated on this in recent years, and I want to share some about it.
To be continued…