Saturday, April 6, 2019
How You Avoid the Moment — Part II — Terror of Uncertainty
I briefly add two significant concepts to my last post regarding avoiding the moment.
Yes, you avoid it.
So do I.
If you wish to review Part I, you can find it here:
First, the concept of living in the moment is misleading. If you reflect on your experience right this second—reading these words, for example—you’ll notice the moment is always passing by.
We are unfolding beings.
We are verbs.
Therefore, actual perception of the moment proves impossible. Consider it an aspirational goal because, in truth, the moment is elusive.
Because we are unfolding in time, becoming, the actual idea of the moment, becomes tricky in and of itself. The second you observe it, it is gone.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to find a theology or philosophy arguing against striving for living in the moment.
Go ahead and strive, perhaps better prepared now with this idea of its elusive nature.
Second, consider meditating on the idea of uncertainty. Uncertainty lies at the core of the problem of living in the moment. We cling to any number of noun-like descriptions of ourselves to avoid the constant uncertainty of the future.
We think about our selves in terms of words like sister, father, social worker, or friend.
We think of our immediate future in terms of some kind of plan. If you reflect on your experience this moment, again, you’ll find yourself thinking something like this:
I will clean the garden, then dictate a report, and then call my friend, Robin or, maybe, David.
This may prove confusing, because these are activities which imply movement.
They sound like nouns.
However, the idea of these plans—by definition existing in the realm of the imaginary—is simply a fantasy, an imagined future.
In truth, we have no idea what will happen in the next minute, hour, or half-day.
Unconsciously, the profound nature of this uncertainty, of chaos rushing in and disrupting our faux-sense of order, terrifies us.
Deeply troubled by the lack of certitude, we imagine plans. We make them up.
On one level, they do provide order out of chaos.
On another level, they are complete fictions because we actually have no idea what is coming next.
Many people these days legitimately talk about climate catastrophe. Few talk talk about the more immediate threat of nuclear annihilation. We continue to have thousands of nuclear weapons ready to hurl at Russia or China; they have thousands ready to hurl at us. Numerous close calls have already occurred, and the risk of a simple accident remains acute. Our nation, or a foreign power, could accidentally initiate launching one or more of these missiles.
We’d witness global catastrophe in a matter of seconds.
More accurately, we’d probably not even know it.
Painful thoughts, don’t you think?
Much better to cover oneself in blankets of denial, whether involving our plans for the afternoon or the future of the planet and the human species.
These ideas speak to what the Buddha meant by “life is suffering.” We humans try to create order out of chaos. We sometimes achieve a sense of order, even if fleeting. But, we all know, on some level, that chaos will ultimately win out.
What then is the point, and how does this extend the idea of how we avoid living in the moment?
Two simple concepts:
- The moment is always unfolding, we are beings.
- Attempting to achieve the elusive nature of living in the moment requires a frank look at the uncertainty of the future.
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Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP