In her book, No Cure For Being Human, author, and professor Kate Bowler tells a story of the day she attended a departmental meeting out of sheer boredom. She was fighting cancer, and her prognosis was not good. But still, she spent some of her precious time left attending a boring departmental meeting.
She tried to explain this to her friend Warren. She says, “‘I have given up on the future.’
After a long pause, he asks, ‘Would you agree that true happiness is the ability to enjoy the present without anxious dependence on the future?’
‘I’m really hoping you’re going to tell me that Jesus said that,’ I say. ‘This is a trap, isn’t it?’
‘That was Lucius Seneca, the ancient philosopher of stoicism,’ he says, laughing. ‘Look, it takes great courage to live as if each day counts….”
So it does. Maybe we should all give up on the future.
Wisdom comes from being in proper relationship to time. “The past” is a set of memories that shape a story we tell ourselves about the meaning of the present. “The future” is a set of assumptions that we hold about what will matter in a time not yet come. All that exists is “present.”
We can act in the present based on past stories or future assumptions. But we cannot act on the past or the future. They are illusions we hold in our minds. Living in the past or future creates a smokescreen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions that block all true relationships. Living in the past or the future distorts the relationship you have with yourself, those you love, the natural world, and God. That’s because they are all here, now, in the present.
That means “now” really matters. “Now” holds the possibility of all that can be experienced – joy, peace, anxiety, fear. “Now” is when change is birthed, and life is lived. Now is when you find true happiness.
The question then becomes how are you spending your “now?” As Warren (and Seneca) remind us, it takes courage to live as if each day counts. Of course, that is the only sane way to live.
We are in this together,
Rev. Cameron Trimble
Author of Searching for the Sacred: Meditations on Faith, Hope and Love