So the new semester is in full swing and as I often do when I am confronted with something new, I’ve been looking back at the brief moments that have together domino-ed me to this point in space and time. When looking back at the past, it’s easy to focus in on the times where smiles were in abundance and life seemed easy. However, nostalgia is an opiate that bleeds the present of any promise. Sure, the past needs to be remembered, but it’s better to keep your eyes focused forward and better still to keep your mind on the present moment (forever slipping away).
My thoughts on time are largely influenced by eastern philosophy, but there are condemnations of regretful living throughout the western canon of literature and philosophy as well. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche illustrated this with the idea of eternal recurrence: each person is condemned to make the same choices and live the same life eternally.
“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘[t]his life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘[y]ou are a god and never have I heard anything more divine’ [Nietzsche, The Gay Science].
In Coming Up for Air, George Orwell examines the false sense of security that lies dormant in every person’s past. The main character forsakes everything in his present life to travel back to the quiet town of his English upbringing; only to find that there is nothing left for him there. For better or worse, we are each stuck in our lives as they are right now. Of course our prior decisions played a part in creating the present and our ambitions and dreams will guide our progress (somewhat at least), but to look too far ahead or too far behind is to miss the blooming flower, so to speak.
So in short, enjoy the moment. Remember, there is a lot to be learned from both of these great writers, as well as many others. One day, I would like to contribute my own treatise on time and being…but for now, here is a short poem from my past:
The Sandbox Days
Sometimes,/When the moon looks an orange slice/ Or a yawning gibbon/ I dream about the sandbox days…
Of Raggedy Anne/ Paper Planes, swooping from me to you/ Back and forth,/ X’s and O’s,/ S.W.A.K. and Animated marsupials,/ Sonic rides in the K-car,/ Late nights that slip/ Into a morning covered in Mountain Dew.
(Further Back still…)
The sweet fragrance of red berries/ Glistening in the early light/ On the soft hairs/ Erect on the back of your neck./ Stinging bees that swarm/ a hive of hair/ Chasing a decade long gone by/ Dido in the arms of an angel/ And whatever monsters wait/ In the dark of all corners and closets.
There is the full blown sunrise/ Clear and new, burning away/ Each memory with the OM/ The prayers and chakras/ Incantations and incense…
And I return to my instauration/ Which is the difference between Three/ And Twenty Three