The impossibility of being present (should we bother?)

Says Soren Kierkegaard:

“It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.”

This is, indeed, true. We are the only creatures that do this – live forwards, plunge into the future with an awareness of our inevitable finality. Not that this is a bad thing. I think it’s good. I think it’s moral, even, to be in action toward better. Kierkegaard adds, seemingly in relation to our obsession with escaping this urge forward:

“And if one thinks over that proposition it becomes more and more evident that life can never really be understood in time because at no particular moment can I find the necessary resting-place from which to understand it.”

Many of us are trying to find that elusive gap between pivoting our lives from past experience and conversations, and lunging forward into life,  into the future. We seek a kind of neutral fulcrum where we think peace exists. Indeed, philsophers and mystics tell us that true peace – and the absence of anxiety – exists in the present.

But here’s an idea for a Tuesday.

Does the present moment have to be time stopped still?[clickToTweet tweet=”Does the present moment have to be time stopped still?” quote=”Does the present moment have to be time stopped still?” theme=”style2″]

I’ve come to think not. Mostly because it’s impossible. And a lot because I believe in the idea of “both”.

Both is better. We can be “present” as we reflect on the past. And we can be present as we propel ourselves in action into the future. I explore this  a lot in First, We Make the Beast Beautiful. We can be both anxious and have a good, character-full life. We don’t have to stop the anxiety. We don’t have to find peace first.

Because, you see, the peace comes from being in both.

Others existentialists – Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus – also push the idea that our fundamental moral imperative is to surge forward in action. Their theories to this effect were developed in a time of incredible human destruction (World War ll). I think we could apply their notions in the current era. We shouldn’t focus on trying to find “me time” and blithely seek #selfcare opportunities. As I say often, #firethefuckup and find your peace in doing the right thing.

This is a theme for me right now – allowing “both” rather than “either/or”. Also, I’m currently exasperated with passivity in the face of a world that needs fired up engagement right now. You?

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