Sunday, August 23, 2020

Thinking of the Present Moment

A university professor who took a semester of study in the United States writes about her experience before returning to Korea in an article in the Kyeongyang magazine. This is her last article from the States. She thought she knew all about life in the States; what she experienced changed her understanding. One of the most advanced countries in the world facing the coronavirus, the United States showed her weakness and frailty. Recently the race question festering for a long time blew up, a land mine waiting for an explosion.

 Since she is in a foreign country, a member of a minority in this time of unrest her everyday feelings have changed greatly. Before the pandemic on a walk, meeting someone she would exchange some words but that all changed, now it's avoiding others. Women, children, the weak, minorities, foreigners their feelings, once oblivious to her are no longer so.

Physical contact with others has been strongly restricted and brought great difficulty to daily life. Isolation has caused a millionaire to take his own life. Physical encounters are part of intimate contact in life, restricted has given rise to irritation and depression. However, this difficult time has allowed her to spend time reading, and time for reflection; difficult, she has been busy.

If this pause in her life didn't exist what would she be doing? She had a busy schedule, each month she would be flying to different academic meetings and enjoying the intellectual stimulation: Boston, Washington, NewOrleans, New York, the island of Cyprus... The promise of expected encounters and their joy would be experienced but absent was the time to reflect. She introduces the readers to a poem by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892).

She takes a paragraph from the third section of his Song of Myself in which the poet with care and a big heart looks upon life positively giving strength to those who have lost their courage. The poet centers on the present moment, the important hour. 

"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."

These words come to us as unreal. Living in the 19th century Whitman was not unfamiliar with the problems of his age which were more prevalent than our age. But he can say there is no more perfect time than the present. He doesn't say than now but 'than' there is now.  He is emphasizing the present moment for that is what we have. Those who are sad or happy have the same present. Facing the troubles and unhappiness we can expect unbiased hope and happiness. This is the impartiality we all have in life.

Irreparable mistakes and failures, the wounds of the past, even with the many problems we have now: misery, anxiety, pain, sorrow the ever-present now allows us to start anew. It is a promise of a lifetime that no one can deny. Since there is now, we must live in the now. That is the stipulation for the solid hope given to us.

It is difficult to predict the future of a post coronavirus time but we can make plans for the future. Starting again with the time given to each of us. We put an end to competition and battles with speed and all types of vanity and face the daily lives we are called to live that will give us new life because of the ever-present now.

From this little planet, I need to get rid of the ego that thought only I was important and the ignorance that only I would be eternal. We need to make a new decision for the day we will all be living together and working with our hands and feet in unison with others in the present now.

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