There is only the Here and Now. The past and the future – both are fictions.
As a recovered self-help junkie, I can tell you that this premise runs through all sorts of paths to alleged inner better-ness (happiness, mental wellness, whatever anyone might call it – apparently the whole lot of it requires a high level of Here and Now-ness.) And yet, it’s an idea I resist … a habit of mind I just can’t develop no matter how many times I’m told that I should.
Meditation is brilliant for you. I’ve known this for sure for the better part of a decade — after I read that report that said actuarials in the US offer lower premiums to people who demonstrate a regular meditation practice. I couldn’t help wondering how such a claim might be demonstrated but then there all sorts of tick boxes on an insurance form that one wonders how they might prove. The point being is if stingy pay-out-the-least-that-you-can insurers swear by it, then the case for meditation improving health outcomes rests on rock-solid numbers tested by very smart mathematicians … it’s not just a fluffy virtue.
Anyway – meditation is completely about the Here and Now and I do understand that it is good for you to achieve this level of consciousness in all sorts of ways.
But I also believe it’s against human nature.
A few moments respite into the Here and Now, fine. I get it. I know how to suddenly stop listing my to-do’s and look up to notice the breeze playing with the flowers. I can do that. But the idea that I might aim to live a good portion of my life trying to Be Here Now, no thanks.
Here’s why I think it’s a flawed “should-ism” – all morally contorted … because people need narrative, that’s why. We need stories. And the Here and Now is context-free — there’s no space for story if we only have this present nano-second leap frogging to the next present nano-second.
For example, I have a headache. A sharp, biting sort of head throb arranged by my sinus infection. So if I were to detach myself into the Here and Now in order to free myself from life’s miseries, I would have felt even worse when a large purring cat started to harm me while I lay sleeping. A headache might want fresh pain from a different source to divert attention from its own – like the pain delivered by a single claw extending from an outstretched paw, poking my nose. Continually. But I’d rather not add that pain to my collection of current discomfort.
After a succession of brazen scratches and skin penetrating pokes, I open my eyes and the cat starts to head butt me into some sort of bull fight. And that’s when it occurred to me that the Power of Now is such a stupid idea.
I would be miserable if Now was all I had throughout this particular moment in bed this morning. But instead I was able to look fondly upon my cat who yesterday disappeared and was lost outside in the pouring rain, who we walked the streets hunting for in vain, who we went to bed hoping and praying for, who we imagined making MISSING CAT signs for, who then bounded through the open window twenty hours later than normal with his fur matted and his paws muddied from a day of harsh weather conditions, who leapt up onto us and hugged us and purred violently in our ears until we put a plate of food down and then he practically choked trying to shove the jellied turkey bites down fast enough. If all I had was the Here and Now I doubt fondness would waft around my waking headached brain at 6 am ON A SUNDAY when I’m not a morning person.
And that’s when it occurred to me that the fundamental flaw with the Here and Now campaign is that it ruins any chance of a story. Stories rely on the past and the future. In stories they are even more important than Now, even if the past and the future don’t exist anymore or just yet.
The idea of living without story, just Here, right Now… well, that’s a far worse sort of headache than the one my sinus infection has managed to arrange.