Live for the moment
These days it seems everyone has a smart phone. Just go sit in a public place and see how many people are looking down into their hands.
There is a camera in each one of them, and so often people snap a shot of where they are or they turn the phone on themselves and snap a “selfie,” which is basically a picture of themselves, arms outstretched in the typical posture, and usually with some kind of emotion plastered on their faces.
Sometimes having a camera in one's phone proves serendipitous, as many photographs of newsworthy events testify. These days everyone can be a photojournalist.
Not that this morning was newsworthy. It was a typical morning. The sun had not come up yet, and the full moon was still in the sky, heading toward the horizon.
Small, puffy clouds drifted over its face. The morning light seemed fresh. I stood at the Belmont Ferry waiting, and the feel of the place came over me.
I noticed the colours on the water, and the pinkish tint on the clouds. The moon was bright, and its reflection cast across the waves.
It seemed like a wonderful morning looking at all that; so, I pulled out my phone and took a couple of pictures of it.
When I got back to the office, I decided to look at the pictures. It wasn't the same. I sat at my desk looking at just part of something that didn't even exist anymore.
I was no longer part of the whole new morning; I was part of the getting-on-with-it business, and I was no longer standing at the water's edge. I was sitting in an artificially lit office.
I suspect most people have had this experience. They've been on vacation and been part of something big.
Perhaps the open sky stretched from one end of the world to the other, and they stood under it like a blade of grass, so small, yet still part of it all.
They snapped the photo, and when they got the picture back to look at it, that huge expansive sky was nowhere to be seen. It had been reduced to the confines of a photograph.
Such experience cannot be captured. It can only be lived. Such experience is not timeless, lasting forever in a picture.
It is a matter of the current moment, which becomes the next current moment. It is in the present tense. It cannot be captured; it can only be lived.
Aldous Huxley wrote: “And along with indifference to space, there was an even more complete indifference to time. ‘There seems to be plenty of it', was all I would answer when the investigator asked me to say what I felt about time.
“Plenty of it, but exactly how much was entirely irrelevant. I could, of course, have looked at my watch but my watch I knew was in another universe.
“My actual experience had been, was still, of an indefinite duration. Or alternatively, of a perpetual present made up of one continually changing apocalypse.” (The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell)
Thích Nhát Hanh wrote, “The present moment is the substance with which the future is made. Therefore, the best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment. What else can you do?” (Art of Mindful Living: How to Bring Love, Compassion, and Inner Peace Into Your Daily Life.)
Ken Wilbur wrote, “Because we demand a future, we live each moment in expectation and unfulfillment. We live each moment in passing.
“In just this way the real nunc stans, the timeless present, is reduced to the nunc fluens, the fleeting present, the passing present of a mere one or two seconds.
“We expect each moment to pass on to a future moment, for in this fashion we pretend to avoid death by always rushing toward an imagined future.
“We want to meet ourselves in the future. We don't want just now — we want another now, and another, and another, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
“And thus, paradoxically, our impoverished present is fleeting precisely because we demand that it end!
“We want it to end so that it can thereby pass on to yet another moment, a future moment, which will in turn live only to pass.” (No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth)
Standing at the ferry stop I was one person in a wider and more complex situation — a part to the whole, or a part OF the whole.
I think this is what gets me every time. If I am at the beach, and I stand at the water's edge, I get the sense of expanse as the ocean heads toward the horizon, and I feel part of the immensity of life.
If I stand on a mountaintop and see the peaks of other mountains drifting to the horizon, I feel the same thing.
If I gaze out into the starry night and try to comprehend the immensity of what I'm seeing, with no horizon at all, I feel part of something that dwarfs me, but I sense having a place in it nonetheless.
These are the kinds of things that humble me, and they resemble the same kind of experience I have contemplating my relationship with God.
There is no doctrinal statement or systematic theology that can capture the current moment with God. They are like photographs attempting to communicate something that exceeds their abilities.
They do not stand at the water's edge and sense God. They stand back from the water's edge and attempt to describe God, but they are not the experience of God.
God told the people of Israel not to make any image of Him, and that was because anything people make to represent God falls short.
It cannot capture what it's like to actually sense in one current moment the truth that one is a small part in the truth that is God.
Photographs are worth something as reminders of the experiences that we have in life.
Doctrinal statements are worth something as approximations of the overall truth, the big picture that is no “picture” at all, but that IS a constant, eternal now. God is infinite, and my most appropriate response is: “Wow!”