What is the present moment? Where is the present moment?
The past is knowable, but can’t be changed. The future is changeable, but can’t be known. Is the present possibly both? The present is given to us, and we have no time in which to either know or change it. Yet at the same time, it is where we live: and living is both knowing and changing. The present cannot be known, but it is the only moment that can ever be lived. The present cannot be changed, but it is the only moment we can ever change the world from. The present is both past and future, with the weaknesses of both, and yet a great power all of its own.
In this infinitely small gap between the past and the future, there is no time for change to occur. And yet, occasionally, a change will occur. Miraculously, each thing becomes something it wasn’t; what was off turns on; and although “trees are green”, trees become golden. Miracles can only happen in the present. While it is future, we have only possibility; once it is past, we have only history; in the present, we have neither, and the impossible can occur.
I would find it tempting to simply conclude that the present does not and cannot exist, if only it wasn’t where I myself lived. This is possibly the most important fact about the present: I live there, and can’t live anywhere else. The past and the future both reject me, as long as I live, and so I’m forced into this paradoxical moment. It may well be true, that the present only exists for people. Objects make no attempt to know or decide; they just react; they just are. To them, the past, present, and future are all as unknowable and unchangeable, and, ultimately, non-existent.
On the abyss of the present, where we stand both blind and powerless, we exist. Our life makes a paradox of time, and this is its power. The only time we are given is this moment in which we can know nothing and do nothing, and yet, we live: we know ourselves and we change ourselves, and thus we change the world. In the present, we have nothing to give but ourselves.
I’ve heard that the present moment is closest to eternity. I’m not entirely sure how. To God in eternity, all things are known, and yet all are subject to Him. To God, past and future do not exist. Perhaps what they mean, is that God knows and acts, as we do in the present. There exists nothing antecedent to God for Him to know. As we live, and so work, “on the abyss of the present”, so God Himself works “ex nihilo”-out of nothing. God does not know anything as “given”; to God there is no history. God knows us completely and perfectly, but not as facts, but as His own present work: God’s knowledge of us is contained in God’s knowledge of Himself, in His Logos, His Word, His Wisdom, His only begotten Son, through Whom He creates all things.
God is with us in the present. Even in its emptiness, He is with us intimately and profoundly, living and creating ex nihilo, and enabling us to live and create with Him. He dares even to live and create within us.
As the saints and wise people throughout the ages have been telling us, we ought live in the present moment, for the glory of God.
“Jesus, I will not wait; I will live the present moment and fill it with love.”
Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
“I simply recall that I must live each day, each moment as if it were the last one of my life. I leave aside everything accidental and concentrate only on the essential; then each word, each gesture, each telephone call, and each decision I make is the most beautiful of my life.”
Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
“It is not the number of our works that are important, but the intensity of the love that we put into every action.”
Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God”
1 Corinthians 10:31
“Happy the soul who reposes in the bosom of God (in sinu Dei), without thinking of the future, but managing to live moment by moment in him, without any other preoccupation than doing well his will in every event.”
St. Paul of the Cross
God bless you!
P.S. I wrote this after reading a chapter of Testimony of Hope, by Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, on the present moment. The more philosophical rambling on time is mine, but the whole thing is inspired by this brilliant chapter of a (so far) brilliant book. I can’t recommend it enough.
I’ve also began (yesterday) to look into “mindfulness”. So far, it seems like its a very good thing, getting people to live in and appreciate the moment. It seems like a welcome remedy for our hectic world. But it seems sad to me, that this is coming from eastern religions and psychologists, when Christians have been doing it for a long time, and with reference to God (which, I believe without evidence, must improve it). It seems we have failed to offer the world the solution it needs, even though we have it plentifully.
Thank you for reading the post-script. God bless you again!!