Thursday, January 19, 2012

now and then

In a column, a young mother unburdened herself to readers and described her feelings of inadequacy when confronted by older women whose children had grown and gone. "Carpe diem" (seize the day), these wistful elders counseled ... it all goes by so fast, so enjoy it while you've got it. The writer pointed out that when it came to child-rearing, she barely had time to complete all the chores that needed doing, let alone doing something splendid like "seizing the day."

I had to sympathize with the young woman whose column I mostly-read yesterday. "Seize the day" has a wonderful and somewhat imperious ring to it. Who wouldn't feel inadequate? Who wouldn't feel wistful? Who wouldn't like to get a day off in order to seize the day?

In the world of spiritual adventure, there are those -- I sometimes think they are the military-industrial complex of spiritual effort -- who make a handsome living by addressing (or is it 'preying on'?) the wistful inadequacies of others. It's all as a matter of 'kindness' and 'compassion,' of course -- urging others in one way or another to seize the day or live in the moment. Their Bentleys and entourages follow them from one upscale hall or temple to another. Seize the day, live in the moment, stop feeling uncertain and inadequate and wistful. I guess it can't be helped: The 'now' is an elusive cuss and yet people remember their own, actualized 'now' moments and long to return. Even a nanosecond of clear understanding whispers and taunts ... come home, come home! Someone's bound to make a buck on it all.

But sometimes I wonder if the cure isn't worse than the disease... encouraging others, encouraging ourselves, selling ice to Eskimos ... it's serious, it's touching, it's human, it's ... profitable. And there's always the question, "What's the alternative?" Well, I haven't got the answer. Is there an endeavor -- any endeavor at all -- that doesn't require people to wade through a thicket of bullshit and lies before they relax into their fields of sweet grass that lie beyond 'the truth?'

I am no better than the high-profile hucksters, no doubt, though the money doesn't appear in my bank account. Encouragement. I encourage myself. You encourage yourself. Everyone encourages everyone ... and the advice is always the same ... advice is what anyone offers to themselves. The only question is -- is it good advice? "Carpe diem," seize the day, live in the present moment ... etc. etc.

As I read the young mom's column, it crossed my mind that the sense of inadequacy arising from the encouragement to seize the day and live in the present moment might be eased a little.

Live in the 'now.'

But if, somehow, that inescapable realm is unattainable in the midst of diapers and dishes and commuting to work and paying the bills and watching TV, well ...

Try living in the 'then.'

Seriously. If someone can't live in the wistfully-remembered or longed-for 'now,' then they must be living in the 'then' -- some past or future that is not the 'now.' And if that's the fact, then go with the facts. Try living in the 'then.' Use every ounce of 'spiritual' effort and ... live in the 'then.' Don't be a sissy about it. Put the pedal to the metal: Enter and embrace the sense of inadequacy that may arise when hoping to live in the 'now.' If you can't lick 'em, join 'em. But no wussing out ... if you can't do 'now,' do 'then.'

Of course it doesn't work. Do it anyway.

Bit by bit, the need for the now's and the then's, the need to feel inadequate and incomplete and somehow unenriched ... well, see what happens.

And if that doesn't work, just send a fat donation to the Church of Unexcelled, Brilliant and Profound Understanding. I think they're located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but I could be wrong about that. I do know that wherever you send your donation, there is a phalanx of spin doctors awaiting your call -- ready, willing and able to encourage your carpe-diem inadequacies.

Do it now!

Of, if you prefer, do it then!

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