It’s Always ‘NOW’… brought to You by ‘Then’…


Ruminating on a lecture I recently watched by neuroscience researcher and popular “new atheist” Sam Harris on ‘Death and the Present Moment’, among other things, I was impressed by the fact that he was able to cajole 4000+ atheists in to doing a 5 minute “mindfulness meditation” akin to certain Buddhists practices. And rather effortlessly, too, I should mention. No small feat. While I love Sam’s approach —  his research, presentation, and gift for reasonable yet concise (and sometimes rather entertainingly pointed) debates, some of his more recent concepts are, admittedly, both a tad difficult to wrap my head around, and somewhat counter-intuitive (which he’d likely be the first to acknowledge with a sublime smile — think Mona Lisa).

Enjoying the moment...

Not to be confused with credulity, but rather a distinct set of “other” tools we as humans seem to quite realistically be in possession of, when I’ve relied on my intuition (AKA “spidey senses”) thoroughly — and I mean with no ego-based distortions taking place somewhere between the thought arising and the subsequent response to it (causality), more often than not, it’s been the “right decision”. Not too scientific, I know, yet nevertheless, most (if not all of you) will be able to relate to this idea from experience alone. Experience firmly rooted in the past.

In fact, as Sam often maintains, we’re constantly being bombarded with thoughts that seemingly arise out of nowhere, moment to moment; “hostages” to an often negative or foreboding “inner voice”. I can totally relate, and so can you. It’s human, after all. Additionally, he states that our communication arises in real time from the same mysterious place; no one ever knowing what their next string of words will look or sound like. Again, I completely agree. Who fully forms complete mental sentences prior to speaking aloud during a lively conversation, after all? We just “go with it”; trust ourselves to be able to properly articulate our thoughts with a tool set combining languages and specific words that we’ve all learned many years ago.

[thoughts and experiences] are also clearly valid conduits to an enriched Present, without which the NOW would literally be a blank.

What I start to see when I explore these facts is the direct and undeniably imperative effect the past brings to bear. Simply put, without that plethora of experiences we went through, even the most basic dialogue in the NOW would be fully impossible to conduct. Nor do I think Sam Harris would disagree with that, I guess I’m just not ready to throw in and concede that the past is merely an artifact in many ways, or that the thoughts associated with it should necessarily be dismissed as “just thoughts” or “sensations arising in consciousness”. While that’s true, they are also clearly valid conduits to an enriched Present, without which the NOW would literally be a blank. While we’re not slaves to our collective past, I don’t think we need to glibly write it off as “not useful”. It absolutely is.

This post was in no way meant to be a pseudo-scientific or “spooky physics”/new age rebuttal, and is likely an over-simplified response to an observation, but the deeper I thought about it, the stronger it held up. I’ll likely elaborate on it at a later date…

For NOW, I’m going to enjoy the moment… it really is all we have.


Jon Mychal / Toronto — June 12 2012



About Jon Mychal

Left-leaning, anti-theistic 'Mo Fo'TM.

"He's a high-toned son of a bitch!" ~ George Stark

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