Monday, August 11, 2014

Living Now Means Remembering the Past without Bondage to It

Photo Courtesy of Mauro Barsi
This is a post I wrote five years ago. It seems to have a freshness about it that makes me want to share it again. It first appeared in One Heart, Many Gardens, a blog which I have sadly neglected of late, about spirituality in the garden.

The past is what comes before this moment, but it is not a vessel into which you must pour the rest of your life. Nor are you obligated to look back in bondage: the present is not cast by tentacles from the past.

The dense web of memory (think of Marcel Proust) can seduce you into the illusion that you are present to the unfolding of your life if indulging in memories. But by coddling your memories you are looking backward, while each new moment glides past unnoticed like a new frame for an old photograph.

I know a woman who is so blind to today that she compares everything she does, hears, and sees either favorably or unfavorably to what she did, heard or saw as a child. Nothing exists in its own new moment: nothing new can happen. It is as if her book is already written and all that remains of the task is appending the footnotes.

In this way, the original memory disappears like a sunken ship overwhelmed by coral--a new monolith calcifies. Retrospection becomes a celebration of vocabulary: how many ways can you conjure anew something that once was but is no more? And if you do this repeatedly, you risk becoming like dust left in the corners as your life sweeps by.

Live bigger than that. Moderate your habit of looking in the rear view mirror in order to drive forward.

Suit up for snorkeling. Try the french fries with white truffles. Wear red. Tomorrow, do something else. Give yourself over to radical awareness of the present. It doesn't matter what you used to do, or what you used to resist doing.

On this plane and in this dimension, the arrow of time only goes in one direction. Unless you possess superhuman powers, why not go with the flow?