Sunday, August 02, 2009

Resolving a contradiction that isn’t

An old friend perusing these thoughts the other day admitted to some confusion about what appear to be some contradictions in my recent writings about consciousness.

On the one hand, I wrote about keeping your mind focused in the moment, because you certainly can’t control what happened yesterday and tomorrow literally doesn’t exist and never will. At any given moment there’s only now.

Then a few days later I wrote about asking what you would do if you knew you could not fail, and then I added guess what, you can’t fail — move on accordingly.

If we should live in the moment with no thought of a future goal, he asked, what’s the point of a to-do list or dreams or goals or the other stuff I’ve been writing about lately?

Good question; the hiccup is in coupling “live in the moment” with “no thought of a future goal.” (P.S. I think he grokked this, as his e-mail was titled “I’m confused...not really.”) Making a conscious attempt to stay in the moment is not the same as “going willynilly all over the place,” as he colorfully put it elsewhere.

In fact, staying in the moment can be a cure for willynilly syndrome. Often the moment has several demands — a conscious, constant attention to priorities can keep the mind focused. This electronic toy full of bells and whistles, on which I’m typing these thoughts, is a great example.

While I’ve been composing, it’s been playing the great album John B. Sebastian, and my mind has wandered to a variety of places that could have sent me to the search engine. (Whatever happened to the young lady who shared my passion for Sebastian and accompanied me to a couple of his concerts when we both were in high school? What was the story again of how the album was released on both MGM and Reprise records? Where did I put my Woodstock album anyway?) Meanwhile, my e-mail dinged; there’s a new message waiting.

But the current goal is to finish these thoughts. The needs of the moment were for me to stay on this page, typing. Staying in the moment is not incompatible with having a goal. I have started developing specific goals for where I hope to be in six months, a year, five years — but life is still what happens to you, moment by moment, while you’re busy making other plans.

My friend concluded with some great advice: “... if you are consciously trying to live in the moment, it is taking your mind away from its natural course, wandering, picking up, sorting and filing other ethereal information it meets in its travels.”

I agree that a little mind-wandering is necessary to maintain one’s sanity. A sense of direction helps prevent the wandering from being out-of-control willynilly; a sense of the moment helps the goals from being so rigid that we miss a sudden or subtle shift in priorities.

All of this navel-gazing boils down to this, however: I am here in this place now, and I control only my actions and reactions now. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I just heard a sound coming from the puppy’s direction that may need my attention ...

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home