I noticed a woman walking down the street with her little girl. The girl was all wide-eyed wonder at the world around her, taking in every squirrel and flower, every other person on the street, every crack and buckle of the worn sidewalk, while the mother, her face set, her eyes unmoving, was lost in a maze of self-concern. She navigated the familiar street by memory and dim peripheral vision. She wasn’t angry, necessarily, just focused on what was coming next.
We do this all the time: live life by forecast. Today’s gonna be a bummer, with a chance of bills. We are always preparing for the next thing before this thing has even started and it takes pain, extreme beauty, or food to snap us back into the present moment.
There is a ton of literature, such as the Power of Now, that talks about the hows and whys of living in the present moment. Though I’ve found this teaching to be transformative, I know I have a lot of work to do before it’s consistently applied to my own experience. Like the mother above, it’s sometimes hard for me to surrender the idea that there is something I have to do before I can be present. I can’t just stop thinking about everything and look at the damn squirrels!
I look back to that point in life (for me it was around age ten, but I don’t know if that’s normal) when I started to measure my self-worth by what I achieved, or in some cases, what I possessed. I don’t know why or how it happened that I forgot the simple joy of being that I had as a child and turned my attention to all the doing and getting but I think we all succumb sooner or later to varying extents.
The trouble is that all the doing and getting has a short shelf life. What we do or get can only prop us up for so long. There is the old saying in show biz that you’re only as good as your last performance. So, eventually we need to do or get more. It’s exhausting.
I think this need to do or get more makes us afraid of the spaces in between. The nothingness. The openess in which possibility may arise. We have learned to fear some of those possibilities so we close off. We literally close off the space of possibility with all the constant thinking and doing. The vast field, that as a child we ran into with the spirit of play, is now a threat. With iPods and iPhones, we can weed out the briefest silence. I don’t even have to look at you as I walk down the street because I’m on the phone.
Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing and getting. Or iThingys, necessarily. And lord knows, I love to think. It’s just that without the opennothingness, the only thing informing our actions is what we’ve already experienced to some degree. It’s the Pandora effect: if you like this music, you’ll probably like this similar music, and so on. Our field of vision, once vast and full of possibility, shrinks and tightens like a fist. Furthermore, and more importantly, we misinterpret the doing and getting for who were are, and since doing and getting have a short shelf life, we’re fucked. We’re nothing…or aren’t we?
Are we the opennothingness? Divine interstices of unbecome?
Lately, I’ve been catching myself closing off. I actually see it happening and that’s a start. My most vulnerable moments seem to be when I’m tired. I just want to be beamed to my couch in front of the tv. I don’t want to be open for the journey home. But I’ve come to recognize that closing only takes energy whereas opening ultimately renews it.
And the journey, is like, everything.