How about Right Now then?
I have recently been reading a text I can much recommend entitled 'Guns,Germs, and Steel' by Jared Diamond
As is often the case my mind has taken part of the very interesting content to a somewhat oblique and different venue, enmeshing the authors description of humanity during our era as hunter gatherers (3.5 million BC to about 13000 BC) with the plethora of modern writings and affirmations led by the likes of Eckhart Tolle about the concept of 'Living in the Now'
Anyway so I have some thoughts, and they are of course only that, but here is what coalesced in my thinking box about this particular topic
As mentioned already there are a plethora of authors and self help gurus who spend inordinate amounts of energy (and charge us equally inordinate amounts of money) teaching about the halcyion benefits of living in the Now.
My understanding of the premise is that the mind, it's incessasnt chatter (like unto a whistling kettle), can only really be quieted if/when we are able to exist in the moment that actually is, removing the predictive information provided by constant referral to the past (The Lizard), and equally closing the curtains on a future of constant planning and negotiation. Apparently some mystics and a few yogi's and Eastern religous wise ones have mastered techniques to find this wonderful Nirvana, and as a reader of these texts who can be as cursed as the next man by the 'whistling kettle' it is indeed an attractive proposition to strive for, in fact I would even suggest that a deep rooted part of the self image I hold has congruence with the freedom of just existing, untied to anything except the moment
OK here goes my speculation.......
I am going to draw on two theories propagated by science (less so theology, albeit that these days the ascendence of a 'science majority' appears to have drawn many religions into flexible thinking)
1. Humanity in its generally modern form has, it is suggested, walked this Earth for three to three and a half million years; the vast majority living as hunter gatherers (completely nomadic survival built on an existence drawn wholly from nature and the surroundings in which the invidual/tribe found themselves) for almost all of that time
Sometime around 13000 years ago humanity, or pockets thereof began a process of farming, taking crops and livestock as they were found in nature and coralling and investing human energy in those crops and livestock in order to secure a greater yield in the future and the surety of food and food reserves (by definition a more sedentary form of human living as farming is not a nomadic passtime)
2. Darwins law, in fact first propogated by Howard Spencer, and often today misused 'Survival of the Fittest' was a mechanic or metafor for the process of natural selection,
' Better or best designed for the immediate and local environment'. The view that the biggest and the strongest will/should/must always survive in nature appears flawed in this definition because that would be totally holistic and not take into account more influential 'local factors' (more in a bit)
I would also like to comment that whilst these two reference points or labels happen both to be drawn from a scientific backdrop, and I will write elsewhere about my great concerns about trusting in the omniscience of science, nonetheless I do not believe this precludes religion and spirituality from an understanding of what I am proposing
So lets get back to point........
Humanity spent in percentage terms about 99.9 %of its existence too date living as hunter gatherers in this particular postulation, and now we are currently growing the 0.01% of our existence as it has evolved under the yoke of farming (as so eloquently described in Guns Germs and Steel)
To my way of thinking a hunter gatherer, indeed all hunter gatherers, spent a pretty large majority of their lives 'living in the Now', by definition. All non conscious life forms live in the now, there is no scope for thinking about the past or planning the future beyond 'natures great plan'.......
It seems to me that hunter gatherers existed from birth to death on a moment by moment basis. I think back to an old wisdom I was told some time ago which for me perhaps sums it up
Two workers with families to feed toil daily for a master, one is of Eastern descent and one of Western descent. At the end of each working day they are 'paid' with a bowl of rice sufficient to feed their respective families and no more. This pattern prevails for some time but the suddenly on a given day the master rewards the days work of each with two bowls of rice. The Western man arrives home excitedly and says to his family ' here look a second bowl of rice' now we shall have a reserve to preserve against the hardships that may come. The Eastern man arrives home at the end of the working day with equal enthusiasm, but instead he says to his family 'Look here we have two bowls of rice, and so I shan't need to go to work tomorrow'......
My thinking is that over those 3.5 million years or so the average hunter gatherer developed a pretty keen sense of living in the now. There probably wasn't too much opportunity to speculate about the future, and they certainly weren't held down by the fixed planning, materialism, and sedentary lifestyles that so govern their most modern descendants. Equally there probably wasn't nearly so much opportunity or wish to reflect on the past when survival in the present took so much physical and mental energy. I don't suppose the succulent Zebra of last week, or the safe tree you camped in last month, or even the child you lost to a pack of hyenas a year back could warrant nearly so much reflection at a conscious level as it would do in parrallel today. I have no doubt 'The Lizard', our protection mechanism, was being sharply honed by circumstance back in those days, and a register of memories I guess would still have been collated and stored, just a deal less opportunity for reflection, consideration and debate (internal or external)
So this version of us roamed across the parts of the world in which we were able to survive best, honing physical and spiritual tools through generation after after generation that would best allow us to evolve, living in the moment in order to survive, and constantly adjusting to the local environment (a new challenge every day quite literally)
Those that survived from generation to generation by definition were those that were best able to adapt to the local conditions, respond to changes and diversities, and this author would suggest 'live in the moment'. I think being distracted frequently by past and or future a million or two years ago would quite literally have been a death sentence....
Then humanity, it appears according to science, took a turn in the road. Much speculation but I guess you had to be there to know the reason why. Nonetheless fossil records tend to suggest that humanity began a process of expansion from one relatively small part of the world (Africa) to eventually colonise the whole place. We cannot be sure if environmental factors, predators, conflict, drought, or disease pushed us from the lands we had ranged across for three and a half million years, nonetheless the hunter gatherers got up and started to spread.
Again nobody can know the 'whys' for certain I think, but it would appear that at some point during this expansion (which to the author seems a perfectly congruent action within the templates of hunter gatherer and the metafor for 'survival of the fittest') we as a species 'discovered' the concept of farming. The idea that there was a choice between
A. investing todays energy and will in obtaining what is needed to survive today (I propose this as living in the now) and
B. Investing todays energy and will in creating something that may allow us to better survive in the future (farming does not have an instant return)(I propose this 'living in the then').
It seems likely that this took many generations to take hold, after all planting Olive trees for a crop in three years time was unlikely to help a majority that needed food and shelter in the moment as opposed to three years hence, and this text certainly will not speculate on why one was ultimately favoured over the other (Guns Germs and Steel is equipped for that)
So in historical terms, I am thinking that we as a species changed Hunter Gatherers to Sedentary Farmers (with all the support specialists that society appears to entail). Measured as a timeline this happened about five minutes ago!
We spent years developing an advanced skill set to live in the 'Now', and about five minutes ago I would suggest we decided to live in the 'Then'
We spent years developing a series of survival mechanisms designed to ensure the best of us tailored for the local environment most often became the progenitors of the next generation. Oh and then a couple of minutes ago we introduced factors which ensured that our survival mechansim is tested against the wrong factors (local environment in a physical sense is it would appear no longer key)
The analogy that springs to mind is that of the fresh water salmon, evolved over millions of years to return to its birthing ground, by taking on a journey swimming against the currents of the river, battling the elements, jumping waterfalls and other obstacles, only the very best surviving to propogate the species.
To me its a bit like salmon that whilst jumping against that harsh current, to overcome that waterfall, spy a nice still pond, and realising that they can exist out of water for a period of time by virtue of the travails that have 'skilled' them for their purpose, some amongst those salmon cease their journeying and slip instead into the nice quiet still pool, there they lay their eggs and new salmon are born. Others of their species see that this is a journey less fraught with threat and danger and so join them in the pool, till in the end no salmon are any longer fighting their way back up the stream, now they have spread to every lake and still water, grown fat on the idolotry of a different existence.
'Survival of the fittest became survival of the fattest' (please ..... loose and analagous!!)
So I find myself wondering, I can understand the somewhat esoteric draw of 'trying to live in the now'. After all I have postulated it is how we were made and evolved over a 99% majority of our existence, tis what we are used to as a race. But our local environment is no longer tailored to allow 'Living in the Now'ists a best chance of survival.
After all think about what is ranged against you in that local environment....
1. Materialism. To have anything, literally anything at all, requires living outside of the now, you have a tin of baked beans, and a cupboard to put them in and you are making plans for the future
2.Survival. Having removed survival from the 'Now' spectrum in its basic sense by the introduction of food production, followed by specialisation which gave us housing, government, law and order, religion science, education, bla bla....... We have created a vacuum for the mind, but not a cure to it's skill set
3. Local environment. The environment in which 99% of the worlds population today finds itself, like it or not like it (and I guess we all sit somewhere on that wire between two poles) invites survival and evolution not from those that live in the moment, but instead from those that recognise and evolve through/from/with/beyond the past, and in conjuntion with an awareness/belief that 'plans' may defer the the worst extremeties/best rewards of 'future'
So whilst it is only my thinking I have come to wondering whether pursuing some halcyion garden of 'living in the Now' however virtuous this may appear, however fitting with our base programming. Is this not perhaps just the greatest deception of all?
If any of my conjectures 'feel' true ( I wonder what 'true' feels like?) then like Leslie Thomas's character Nicholas Boulting in 'Running Away' are you willing to just give it ALL up?.......
Just get up, leave everything you have, and everything you are,all that you have done and know, and just wander off and let your 'NOW SKILL SET' see you right.?? Tis just my thinking but it would appear to me that this may be the only true path to a life in the moment, after all what you are really trying to do I guess is jump out of the salmon pond, packed full of those fat salmon, and get back into the river.........
Someone else I have recently been reading (Neville Shute) expresses this 'All power corrupts, in the end even the power to do good' (sounds a bit like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings speaking of the great rings). But I think the point is this.
I believe this is just an example of past present and future. I have no wish to do more than invite thought, and reflection for me
As you read this it exists as something in my past expressed by me in the present found by you in my future.
Tis grist for the mill, and food for debate, and of course tis just my thinking...
David (Richmond UK Jan 2014)
In the end tis all a leap of faith methinks ...
We need another and a wiser and perhaps more mystical concept of animals.
Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilisation surveys the creature through the myopic glass of his knowledge, and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.
We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate, for having taken form so far below ourselves.
And therein do we err....
For the animal shall not be measured by man.
In a world older and more complete than ours they moved finished and unique, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.
They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the travail and splendour of the Earth