If you’ve ever had the impressive motivation to enter a gym, or wandered around the sports and fitness section of a department store, you’ll probably have seen one of those exercise machines upon which you place each foot on a separate pedal and swing your legs back and forth one after the other. Their proper name is a ‘gravity strider’ or ‘airwalker’ and they provide the same fitness benefits as a brisk walk; the bonus being that you don’t need to worry about the weather. You can even position it in front of the t.v and do it whilst you watch The Simpsons, if you really want. Its really quite novel.
Sometimes, when I see these machines in full swing, they remind me of the motion of our minds a little bit. Sometimes we are forward thinking in the future, other times we are backwards recalling the past, but seldom are we in the centre – the present.
Ahhh, tenses. Everybody loves to philosophise over the tenses. You’ve probably heard dozens of infamous sayings about how important it is to live in today rather than yesterday, or tomorrow. Even one of the best-selling books of all time (Eckhardt Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’) was about that very idea. For many, it is seen as the key to being spiritually sound and happy – and that’s an idea that most people would find extremely hard to refute. I’m not going to refute it either, though I am going to try and figure out whereabouts in the jigsaw the past and the future really belong.
It seems to me, that most of the time we are thinking about things that happened in the past, or speculating over the things that we think may happen in the future.
“I wish I could go back to…”…. “I wish I hadn’t said such and such” … “I wish I’d done that differently” … “I miss a million people and things”… “Do you remember when we…?”
Now how about:
“I can’t wait until…” … “I am going to do that!”… “One day, I’d love to…” … “We should go to…”… “I will…”
If you’re anything like me – the above phrases will be most familiar to you. You probably have a number of different words you could fit instantly fit into the ellipses. Its fun isn’t it? Reminiscing the good times and speculating over the exciting times ahead. It can also be extremely nauseating – regretting over things you may have done or said which you just can’t change, and never will be able to change, or missing things that you can never re-live that pale in comparison to whatever you’re doing now. Looking forward can be just as nauseating – you can set out many plans and goals but you can’t be certain that you’ll ever be able to enjoy the glory from them. A lot of time wastefully invested into thinking about something which might not even happen!
Sometime during the third year of University, we were in the middle of a Criminology lecture which was not the most interesting of all. In fact, it was so boring, that I cannot recall the proper name of the module nor what topic we were learning about that rainy Friday afternoon in the Marcus Merriman lecture theatre, Lancaster University. I merely remember being sat with my unkempt, spotty, studentified head face down on the desk in despair, stomach full of Pot Noodle and Snakebite, trying in vain to battle the zzz’s. That was until our lecturer, Professor Can’tRememberTheName, used an analogy to describe something which really stuck out in my head as describing a habit that most of us have. The analogy was that of a boat on an open sea that was being manipulated by several different steering wheels, all trying to steer in different directions. The result? The boat stood still, and went nowhere. See yourself as the boat now, sometimes living in one direction (the past), other times living in the other (the future). The result? Staying still, going nowhere. Could you ever contemplate that a boat and an airwalker and even an human mindset could have so much in common?
The present is the only tense that we are ever assured of having. Therefore, it needs to be the one which we prioritise. Yesterday is not the present. If today is Monday, even the soon to arrive Tuesday is not the present. Now is the present. Your eyes on this sentence is the present (I must say, you are using your present wisely at this moment), but now that sentence becomes the past and now this current sentence is the present. So let’s use it. Let’s do the things we want to do whilst we know we can.
But where does that put the past? Where does it put the future? You definitely need those as well. Just ask Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’. We can only ever put our lives into perspective and make the most of ourselves if we can have visions of all three. The past is our teacher and Hindsight is that annoying fellow student in class who would start saying the answer to the question just after the teacher had started saying it, and would then pass off the answer as their own with a fraudulent grin. The past gave us immense pleasure and intolerable pain but still we stand; now with more knowledge, appreciation and wisdom. The past gave us all of the people we care about and all the qualifications we have. We would be nowhere without it. Be careful not to dismiss it. Though there may be things we don’t like to remember, sometimes it is those things in particular which taught us the most. Everything we ever did, taught us something, even if it was only trivial like, “don’t hold on too firmly to the escalator handlebar or you’ll spend the rest of the day with traces of hard-to-remove black rubber on your fingers”. To dismiss any of that just because its not happening right now would make a mockery of everything you ever experienced.
Then too, the future – the one that keeps us facing forwards. Thinking about the future is what provides us with hope and excitement. Having a bad day? TOMORROW WILL BE BETTER. Though the uncertainty may also scare you, but at least you have the time to try and guide yourself in the direction you want to go in – draw out that map! Plan your route. But don’t use it as ‘back-up’ time to fulfil the things in life you really want to fulfil. There is no tomorrow. Nobody ever goes there. Have you ever received a postcard from that golden, heavenly Land known as Tomorrow?
It is today which we have. Today is all you will ever have. So let’s really think and understand now that infamous, wise old saying that you might find scrawled in a flowery font on the back of a menu in some kind of new-age, hippy dippy café-bar and lets put our whole heart and souls into it and really…
There’s no wanting in the present. There’s no wishing in the present. There’s no regretting in the present. There’s only ever living in the present, so let’s not wait any longer to do the things we really want to and lets put the present in its rightful place at centre stage where it cannot be avoided; and the past and the future stored safely and discreetly in the wings for when we need that little bit of perspective or hope.
Song of the Day: Girl Talk – Down for the Count
Massively under-rated away from the Americas, mash-up D.J Gregg Gillis has been making creating fresh party anthems for masses through ingeniously blending together popular songs in a way that leaves you in a state of absolute awe… Once you’ve stopped dancing, that is.