Blog / Philosophy / reflection · October 5, 2022 0

Wretched is the Mind

Montaigne:

We are never ‘at home’: we are always outside ourselves. Fear, desire, hope, impel us towards the future; they rob us of feelings and concerns for what now is, in order to spend time over what will be – even when ourselves shall be no more. Wretched is the mind anxious about the future.

And yet our whole society is conditioned to think this way. It’s our default position. As I read that passage, I caught myself doing exactly that – ruminating about the future. And if I’m honest with myself, my rumination was driven by all three emotions: desire, fear, and hope.

When I bring my attention to the present, the present seems lacking. I’m sat in my quiet room reading a book written by guy who has been dead for 430 years. What is glorious about the present? Is it the celebration that you’re alive? But alive to do what? Exist? Procreate? It seems as soon as I give myself a purpose or a mission or a goal, I immediately create the condition of concern for the future. Will I achieve my mission? Will I accomplish my goal? Will I live my life on purpose?

The moment I bring my mind back to the present, those things vanish. Yet somehow, there’s that little niggle in the back of my mind, poking me, reminding me that I haven’t accomplished all that I want to accomplish yet. Reminds me of the narrator in Robert Frost’s poem – Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

And as soon as I acknowledge the voice, a dozen different tasks flood my mind, things that need to get done if I have any chance of achieving anything beyond just living in the moment. But living in the moment is meant to bring peace, a settled mind, a oneness of spirit. How can I have both, peace and ambition?

Ambition is fueld by desire. Desire implies lack. Lack induces fear. And hope keeps me hanging on in the belief that this will all work out in the end.

The acknowledged wisdom tells me that the present is exactly where we I need to be. If I spend too much time wandering around in my past reliving old glories, or too much time daydreaming about the future, then I am wasting my life.

Who do you believe? Where should one put their faith?

I know what it feels like to be fully present. It is pure joy. A joy that gets ruined the moment you say to yourself, I wish this joy could last forever, but it’s time to get back into the real world and get shit done. Otherwise, when I get to the end of the year and people start patting themselves on the back about all of the things they’ve accomplished this year, I’ll have nothing to show. All I’ll be able to say is that I lived a life of joy doing nothing but being present.

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