I realise I’ve taken a bit of a sabbatical from posting on here. Truth be told, I’ve been immersing myself in both art and philosophy. Not only theoretically, but also practically — I’ve been drawing, sketching, writing and spending a lot of time thinking.
Over the past two months, I’ve filled nearly five Moleskin notebooks — basically thinking about everything and anything.
In the coming weeks I hope to distill some of these and share something that you might find useful. Or at the very least, have a resource that I can reference myself every so often to help reset my focus and get me back on track.
With this setting some context, I wanted to share a speech by Sam Harris that I stumbled upon recently:
The one thing people tend to realize, at moments like this, is that they wasted a lot of time, when life was normal. It’s not just what they did with their time, it’s not just that they spent too much time working, or compulsively checking e-mail, it’s that they cared about the wrong things. They regret what they cared about. Their attention was bound up in petty concerns, year after year, when life was normal. And this is a paradox, of course, because we all know this epiphany is coming. Don’t you know this is coming? Don’t you know that there’s gonna come a day when you’ll be sick, or someone close to you will die, and you’ll look back on the kinds of things that captured your attention. Cause even if you live to be a hundred, there are just not that many days in life.
It is always now. How ever much you feel you need to plan for the future, to anticipate it, to mitigate risks, the reality of your life is now.
Our conscious awareness of the present moment is, in some relevant sense, already a memory. But, as a matter of conscious experience, the reality of your life is always now. And I think that this is a liberating truth about the nature of the human mind – In fact, I think, there’s probably nothing more important to understand about your mind, than that, if you want to be happy in this world.
The past is a memory; it’s a thought arising in the present. The future is merely anticipated; it is another thought arising now. What we truly have is this moment. And this. And we spend most of our lives forgetting this truth, refuting it, fleeing it, overlooking it. And the horror is that we succeed. We manage to never really connect with the present moment and find fulfilment there, because we are continually hopping to become happy in the future. And the future never arrives. Even when we think we’re in the present moment, we’re, in very subtle ways, always looking over its shoulder, anticipating what’s coming next. We’re always solving a problem. And it’s possible to simply drop your problem, if only for a moment. And enjoy whatever is true of your life in the present.
There are more connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue, than stars in our galaxy. And yet, our inner experience offers absolutely no clue.
We are subjectively unaware of most of what our minds are doing. And yet, when we think about what matters – what matters is consciousness and its contents, оkay, consciousness is everything; our experience of the world, experience of those we care about is a matter of consciousness and its contents. So, whatever the origin of consciousness, the most important question for us is how can we truly be fulfilled in life? How can we create lives that are truly worth living, given that these lives come to an end?
So The frame we put around the present moment is important and largely determines our experience of it, but it seems possible, in fact, to experience life more nakedly than this. To experience it without the obvious framework. To pay attention to the present moment closely enough, so that you’re not doing anything to it. You might feel that your consciousness is in your head, or behind your face. But, as a matter of experience, it is just more sensations arising in consciousness. The only evidence of your face and head is sensation arising in consciousness, at this moment.
Whatever you can possibly notice in your body, in your mind, in the world, has only one place to appear – in your conscious experience. Now, I’m not saying this is all just a dream, but, as a neurological matter it is very much like a dream. It is a dream that is constrained by inputs from the external world. And the dreams we call dreams at night are dreams that are not constrained by the external world. And that’s why you seem to get away with everything. But, you see, your mind is all you have. Okay? It’s all you’ve ever had. It’s all you have to offer other people. We are all trying to find a path back to the present moment, and good enough reason to just be happy here. If you’re constantly ruminating about what you just did, or what you should have done, or what you would have done if you only had the chance, you will miss your life. You’ll fail to connect with it. You’ll fail to connect with other people.
Being the mere hostage of the next thought that comes craning into consciousness isn’t useful. So if there is an antidote to the fear of death and the experience of loss that’s compatible with reason, I think it’s to be found here. The purpose of life is pretty obvious. We are constantly… why do we create culture and form relationships beyond matters of mere survival? We are constantly trying to create and repair the world that our minds want to be in.0