The beauty of the ongoing now

Looking around at the faces on campus, I’ve noticed a general aura of weariness that is strikingly common at this time of the year. Students adopt a certain zombie-esque quality, going through the day mechanically, with too many wishful thoughts about the upcoming holidays. As Emerson succinctly put it, “we are always getting ready to live, but never living.”

There is a strong tendency amongst us all to play psychic with our future, as seen in the frantic questions of “What are your plans for this Christmas?” “What are your plans for this summer?” “What are you planning on doing next year?” And God forbid if you give any sign of uncertainty—apparently, everybody else can prophesize their future plans with ease. But a shrug and a vague mumble of “I dunno” or “not much” is probably the answer you might get if you utter the rare question: “what are your plans right now?” When did today become so obsolete? Where does this hunger for tomorrow come from, why do we feel the need to map out our future, and why is it that the present is a subject only discussed in poetry?

Carpe diem (a highly over-quoted phrase meaning “seize the day”) was a theme Renaissance poets would often incorporate in their work in order to woo the women of their dreams. Time is quickly sifting down to the bottom of the hourglass, along with the ever-fleeting beauty and the ephemeral body. So one might as well just live and love before the “quaint honour turn into dust / And into ashes all my lust,” as Marvell would muse to win his coy mistress.

Maybe what we all need is another sleazy poet to remind us that time is indeed a precious concept. Here we are, in the prime of our youth, with glorious independence and insatiable energy. But instead of cherishing the golden days of being a student, we are frantically writing down deadlines for that next assignment, planning the next meeting on our cell phone, printing out yet another resume for yet another application. Living inside a school system that continually harps on the “options” of our so-called future has placed us in the world of tomorrows and laters.

But tomorrow won’t, and can’t, exist without today. Life is too short to be lived through an overactive imagination and wishful thinking. The wonderful visions of the future will never receive the full appreciation they deserve if we don’t learn to embrace this very moment.

Too often, we sigh away the days as the doom of tomorrow looms over our heads—and moments become a meaningless bridge leading into the mirage of the elusive “late.” But maybe, getting adequately lost in the radical, unconditional “now” that philosophers have idealized wouldn’t be so bad—even if it’s just for a split second to let the overwhelming sensation of your busy life actually take hold for once.

One of my favourite movies of all time, Waking Life, has a quote outlining the beauty of the present: “the ongoing ‘wow’ is happening right now.” Breathtaking discoveries, spontaneous joy, artful creation—somewhere, somebody is making this moment into an extraordinary miracle.

And you, too, can do the same.

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