“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Kicking My Heels

Today we are going on holiday. The journey is planned; the cases are packed; and all is ready to go.

But we're not due to leave until 2.30, and it's only half past ten. So now I am in the limbo of waiting: waiting for something to happen, waiting to leave. It's not really worth doing any work (and I am disinclined to anyway I'm On Holiday!). But I am reminded of the Abbot of the Black Friars, in Neil Gaiman's wonderful book Neverwhere:

"So the day became one of waiting, which was, he knew, a sin: moments were to be experienced; waiting was a sin against both the time that was still to come, and against the moments one was currently disregarding."

I've been reading a lot about living in the present lately, and have come to recognise that "now" is the only time that has any significance whatsoever. The past is over, and cannot be changed, and dwelling on it, either with nostalgia or regret, is a waste of time. And the future is something which is coming at a rate of 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour and 24 hours a day, whether we are looking forward to it, or worrying about it. I concede that it is important to at least do some planning for future events, but not to the extent that we spend all our time longing for some mythical future time, when everything will be wonderful, and we will have all that our hearts desire, or worrying about some other mythical future time, when we have lost all that gives our lives savour.

No, it is now that matters. It is the present that we should be concerned with. Only the present moment is sacred, and whether we are in grief or in joy or in gratitude or in despair, we need to pay attention. I also find comfort in the belief that CS Lewis explains in The Screwtape Letters - that we will be given the strength to deal with whatever joy or sorrow come our way in the present. But not the strength to cope with worrying about possible future alternatives, most of which will probably not happen.

May we all experience life, moment by moment, being like Rumi's Guesthouse "Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor." And may we truly appreciate what we have, today, now, this minute, for very little lasts forever. So I'm off out, for a walk, to get these waiting bats out of my belfry.


  1. I personally think all these exhortations to live in the present are just another way of getting people to beat themselves up over stuff that is not really problematic. I mean yes, worrying too much about the future, and dwelling too much on or in the past are bad for you, but enjoying memories of the past or pipe-dreams about the future are both fine.

  2. Yes, I agree to a certain extent, but I for one get more out of life if I am awake and alert to what is happening in the present.