Living In The Moment
April 25, 2010
I am pretty sure I have used this headline before, but it is a subject much on my mind in the middle of my 58th year. There are storm clouds gathering on the horizon for any number of reasons. Those of you who are older than me know what I mean, and those who are younger don't want to know. There are issues of my health and of those I love that will come to a head sooner rather than later. At my age, mortality begins to seem like a real prospect, rather than a theoretical one. And the worst thing is that, while you can prepare intellectually for things you know are going to happen, emotionally they still knock you for a loop.
At a less personal level, I fear for the Republic, the moreso since I have invested seven years in teaching eighth graders about it. We may be as polarized today as we were in the years before the American Civil War. I almost wrote, "but this time the split is not so clearly geographical," but on reflection, I realized that's not true. The same 12 states that bailed out last time (Civil War, 1861) are still the dissenters, along with a handful of mountain states. They may think we're the dissenters, but we outnumber them, just as we did last time, although they have parity in the Senate, just as they did last time, which allows them to throttle progress, just as the did in the 1850s. I tell my students that the issue of secession was settled once and for all by the sacrifice of the 600,000 men killed and wounded in the Civil War (equivalent to 6 million today), but I wonder if it was settled.
Ignorance of history, of course, contributes to the situation. For the governor of Mississippi to say, as did GOP Bigwig Haley Barbour, that the civil war was not about slavery, when the Mississippi Causes of Secession clearly says it was, is both scary and appalling. George Orwell's Memory Hole is alive and well, and apparently Barbour has one in his office. Next thing you know, all the copies of the document will disappear, or be rewritten so they're about taxes and sovereign state governments. In recent years, I've tried not to get so worked up about such crap.
Which brings me back around to the title of this item. Living in the moment is not only the best revenge, it's the only way to maintain one's sanity. In the words of the serenity prayer, ""Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Or, as one of my ed school teachers once put it, "The past is history, the future is a mystery. That's why they call it the present." Sometimes, I try to convince Vicki that what I do is not fruitless fretting about the future, but rather contingency planning. Somehow, each of us in this world need to figure out how to plan but not fret.
One way to do that is to be in the moment, that tired old shibboleth of Yoga and Buddhism. It got tired because it is true. A seminar leader once said, "Some say you are only as old as the amount of time you have spent in the moment. By that measure, my real age is 4 even though my chronological age is 40." I am probably three. But in the year to come, I hope to grow older. My life is great right now. I must cherish that now, so that I don't regret not cherishing it in the future. What could be worse than to look back and say, "I didn't know how good I had it."