Living in the NOW and the cards we’re NOT dealt

by David King on January 23, 2011

I feel compelled to return to this notion of “living in the moment.”

I have come to the strongly held, now frequently rehearsed, and both emotionally and rationally considered conclusion that living in the moment is, in its basic and standard form, a potentially hazardous ideation. In theory, and from a strictly optimistic perspective, it works: Live in the moment, escape the confines of the past and abandon the worries of the future; focus on the here-and-now, and be attentive to the beautiful details of life that are often overlooked.

The problem, of course, is that millions of years of evolution have led to a sophisticated self-consciousness that facilitates both long-term memory and complex consideration of future events. It allows us to view our lives in such a way that we continuously move from past to future, often overlooking the moment that hides between the two (if it exists at all). It also allows us to make choices based on the consideration of memories and forecasts, without which we would surely be at constant fault. And here is the problem: No matter the perspective – rational, emotional, or spiritual – making choices without considering the past and future is nonsense. Even if we try, our fine-tuned schemas about life and the world implicate past experiences, if only subconsciously.

But there’s another layer to this: Responsibility. I have learned that to immerse oneself in the moment is to sacrifice responsibility to oneself and to others. After all, one’s future includes his/her own wellbeing as well as that of his/her loved ones. To live fully in the moment means sacrificing loyalty, trust, and honour – concepts which are necessary components of such broader ideas as humanity, peace, and love. We are dealt many cards in life, and we must make the best of them. But there are a few cards – trust, respect, loyalty, responsibility – that we create. We draw these cards, and we edit them as we like. We need not forget this.

The moment is forever around us. The moment is future, past, and present – there is no need to disentangle the three. The moment is here, there, and everywhere. The truth is, to live in the moment means to embody all three states simultaneously – to be aware of NOW in light of the past and future. More importantly, perhaps, to live in the moment should only ever be done with kindness. The catch, of course, is that kindness requires consideration of past and future.

Reduce, narrow, and attend, or do none of the above, but don’t let go of that which makes you human.

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