You have heard it said that you should live every day as if it’s your last, but I say unto you meet each moment as if it’s the only one you have.
The past is an illusion, it exists only in our memories. Similarly the future is a myth, a product of our imaginations. This very moment is, therefore, the only one which matters. It is in the present that the weight of history and the burden of the future meet our trembling frames: Beyond this, the abyss. The place we have never known and the time our minds cannot stretch to comprehend. We are fragile creatures of nothing but memories and hope. If not hope, fear. If not memory, despair. For we would not know from whence we came or where we might go.
A ship steers a course through the murky waters beyond the edge of experience, passengers constantly looking back to see the settling ripples. Or forward, studying the charts and maps. They would never look up, out, and glimpse the vast beyond. Rolling dice, counting cards and a dozen other trifles to amuse themselves on their voyage. The vessel creeps onward.
None remember the port from whence they departed. The navigation officers bicker over their eventual destination. A ship in the dark slips onward.
The passengers play. Absurd. Would not the passengers on an aimless ship seek desperately for certainty? To remember their origin, to think with care on their destination? If not this, to be at the very moment they are found, the fullness of themselves. How could they afford to wait to arrive at their unknown destination, when there is much to see and savour and enjoy and experience in the present? The passengers on the ship hope to live. They do not live. They wait to disembark to return to life.
It must be a prison ship. A vessel of waiting men and women, longing for a future when it will all be different. It is a prison ship we locked ourselves aboard.
In doing so we deprive ourselves of the peace of fully knowing ourselves or experiencing others or encountering joy. We have such a great capacity for happiness, but we always wait to fill it. We wait for the future spouse, child, job, social gathering, party, or an dozen other trifling things. We foolishly think that if we wait long enough the hunger for joy will be satisfied in the course of life. Even a thousand remorseful old men would not convince us of our foolishness, because our lives will be different.
I do not think we can desire something we cannot experience, any more than a sunflower would wilt for lack of company. The plant does not know it is alone nor does it think it needs a companion. But we humans know our loneliness and seek all our lives to be known.
On our prison ship we keep to ourselves, for one day we will land on the shores of marriage, or friendship or parenthood and then we will be known.
Similarly with joy. We would not indulge this most foundational desire aboard the ship. Not yet. We will find that fulfilment in the future. Or maybe it already passed. But is the past not mere memory? The future, imagined? So we are not happy, we only plan to be happy. Or remember we once were.
I do not think this must be the way of things. The human body would weaken and die if we only remembered the satisfaction of water, or anticipated a full stomach. It would drive us mad.
And our existence cannot be an extended distraction from the vast abyss of our fundamental desires. If this were the case, we would all have given up the pursuit generations ago and slowly faded away, or else become medicated corpses, churning out products to keep our hearts beating. We’re not there yet. There is still joy.
So what then will save us from the maddening nothingness surrounding this moment? Will our lives be an endless distraction until the day we slip into eternity? Can we find our souls satisfied in this moment? Can we boldly encounter our own existence and experience this second with the full security that it might even be enough?
The Psalmist said:
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Might that be enough? Right now? Might it be enough that you can know God? Could that satisfy the longing of the soul in this one brief moment, such that the past and the future fall away and the dark abyss becomes the bright radiance of God’s glory?
If this moment is the only one you have, it would appear logical that finding the utmost satisfaction of your deepest desire is paramount. Make it something worthwhile.