- Though thou shouldst be going to live three thousand years, and as many times ten thousand years, still remember that no man loses any other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this which he now loses. The longest and shortest are thus brought to the same. For the present is the same to all, though that which perishes is not the same; and so that which is lost appears to be a mere moment. For a man cannot lose either the past or the future: for what a man has not, how can any one take this from him? These two things then thou must bear in mind; the one, that all things from eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle, and that it makes no difference whether a man shall see the same things during a hundred years or two hundred, or an infinite time; and the second, that the longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same. For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that this is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose a thing if he has it not. [Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations (167 A.C.E.), Book II.]
Now is the only time, and here is the only place, you can ever do anything. Every productive action, including your times of productive rest and restoration, is carried out in the here and now.
This does not mean that you are never to think about the past or the future or the time you spent in Yellowstone National Park. The idea of the here and now is not a dogma but only an observation of the value of centering ourselves in the present time and place.
Technical and Analytical Readings
- Thich Nhat Hanh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment (Shambhala, 2009).
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go: Waking Up to Who You Are (Parallax Press, 2007).
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living (Parallax Press, 2006).
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Our Appointment with Life: Discourse on Living Happily in the Present Moment (Parallax Press, 1990).
From the dark side:
- Mary Laura Philpott, Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (Atria, 2022): “It’s about a certain kind of love that’s inextricably bound up with the fear of loss. A certain kind of anxiety — the anticipatory fear of the looming empty nest, which if you’re someone of Philpott’s sort, may begin at the moment your baby is born.”
Music: songs and other short pieces
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end, / But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now, / Nor any more youth or age than there is now, / And will never be any more perfection than there is now, / Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
The birds they sang
at the break of day
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
[Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”]
- Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”
- Wallace Stevens, “Snow Man”
- Mary Elizabeth Frye, “Do not stand at my grave and weep”
- William Shakespeare, “Carpe Diem”
- Rabindranath Tagore, “A Moment’s Indulgence”
- Javed Akhtar, “The moment seems to flow like a molten sapphire”
- Faiz Ahmed Faiz, “Tonight”
- Lauren Shapiro, Arena (Cleveland University Poetry Center, 2020): “. . . a reminder of poetry’s filmic ability to slow and stop time”
- Isabella Hammad, The Parisian: A Novel (Grove Press, 2019): “Isabella Hammad has crafted an exquisite novel that, like Midhat himself, delves back into the confusing past while remaining wholly anchored in the precarious present.”
- Stewart O’Nan, Henry, Himself: A Novel (Viking, 2019): “The gift of O’Nan’s fiction is to immerse us deeply in Henry’s essence, in his desire to be useful and his nostalgia for a vanished way of life, for the forgotten homespun rituals and for houses with slate roofs and ornate gables. And when we watch him winding the clocks forward, we find ourselves wishing he could hold the minute hand motionless for just a while longer.” (stories about people who tried to escape the here and now)
- Yishai Sarid, The Memory Monster: A Novel (Restless Books, 2020): “. . . a brilliant short novel that serves as a brave, sharp-toothed brief against letting the past devour the present.”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Without a hint of self-consciousness, Andean folk music is continually centered in the present moment and place. My favorite group is Yarina, consisting of musicians with classical training who returned to their cultural roots.
- “Ecuador Manta” album
- “Nawi” album
- “Yawar Wawki” ablum
- “Yahuar Wauky” (Blood Brothers) album, Volume 3
- Compilation of songs
- Live on Long Island, 2010
- Conjunto Yarina
- Tu Forma de Ser (Dream Eyes)
- Sisay Kawsay/Jari Jari
- Takisay Concierto Evolucion 2010
More Andean music:
- “Original Music from the Andes, Volume 4” album
- Andes Manta, “Music of the Andes”
- “Traditional Music of the Incas” album
- “Instrumental Music of the Andes” album
- Ensemble Pachamama, “The Music of Peru” album
- “Putumayo Presents Music of the Andes” album
- “Musique des Andes” collection
- “Andina Inca Music from Ecuador”
- “The Paths of Pain: The CAIFE Label, Quito, 1960-68”
Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 3, WAB 103 (1873, rev. 1877 and 1889): “Rather than spinning towards a far-off goal, this music forces us to stay rooted in the moment.” Excellent performances are conducted by Dausgaard, von Karajan, Böhm, Inbal (1. Gemässigt, misterioso; 2. Adagio - Feierlich; 3. Scherzo - Ziemlich schnell; 4. Finale - Allegro), Norrington, Thielemann, Nelsons, Gielen, Jochum, and Wand.
- Erickson, Night Music (1978)
- Žibuoklė Martinaitytė, Nunc fluens. Nunc stans (2020): “As though in a dream where time is fluid”.
- Raga Jog is a Hindustani classical raag for late evening (performances by Sharma, Ankita Joshi and Chakrabarty).
- Ravi Shankar, “The Enchanted Dawn” and “Twilight Mood”
- Evan Parker Electro Acoustic Ensemble’s album entitled “The Moment’s Energy” offers a decided departure from the meditative spirit usually associated with living in the here and now. This work of improvisational, avant-garde jazz expresses the idea of seizing the moment, for a purpose.
- James Carter, “Present Tense”
- Lafayette Gilchrist, “Now”
- Orrin Evans, “The Magic of Now” (2021): as with all spontaneously improvised jazz, the artists are fully in the moment of creation. “Righteous, rowdy, and riotous, joy abounds as the quartet, led by Archer and Stewart, slyly open Stewart's ‘Mynah’ from Telepathy (Blue Note, 1997) and it immediately becomes palpable that these guys are very glad, very effin' glad, to be playing together.” Evans explains the album title: “We’re past the point where we didn’t know what was going on or what the future would look like. Now we’re settling into what our ‘new normal’ will be, embracing the magic of now and the shape of what will happen next.”
- Song Yi Jeon & Vinicius Gomes, “Home” (2022) (49’), “showcases the duo's gorgeously enveloping blend of Brazilian, classical, and ECM-style jazz.” The album conveys a sense of being home, wherever you are.
Here are links to a few of many live performances in which the players were fully in the moment:
- Allan Botschinsky Quintet, “Live at the Tivoli Gardens 1996” (136’)