Of course, this could hardly be considered a mindblowing revelation. After all, our mortal lives are fundamentally 'trapped' in the Present. The past is but memories and records; the future, mostly projections and yearnings (or anxieties). One part of life is firmly behind us and the other part can do little more than beckon. And here we are in the Present, somewhere in the middle of it all, a mere pinpoint of light that somehow contains all the stuff of the universe while seemingly containing nothing whatsoever.
Deep down nearly everyone understands that the Present is all we truly 'have', yet nearly all spend the vast majority of their lives 'being' anywhere and everywhere but the Present. We know the Present is all we have, yet we insist on submerging ourselves into the waters of the past or probing the luminous future aided by nothing more than wings made of feathers and wax. We know the Present is all we have, but it is a 'have' most of us would be happier to be without.
In a recent post, Bruce Charlton astutely observed that current world circumstances are essentially forcing everyone to live in the Present:
Like-it, or like-it-not, we are being compelled to live in The Present - since both our earthly past and future are both being abolished so rapidly that they can no longer serve as objects of confident contemplation, can no longer structure our daily living.
The paragraph above effectively encapsulates the conversation I had with my wife a week ago. As we talked about our current circumstances, we came to the startling conclusion that we could no longer structure our daily lives around an innate and confident assumption about the future. Nor could we rely on drawing much support from the past.
Once again, this is not a revelation in and of itself. Life is always uncertain, even in the best of circumstances, but current circumstances have basically solidified the uncertainty of life. Nevertheless, a solid certainty can be mined from these current circumstances.
The past and future were always soap bubbles, but until quite recently they could move through a mostly open sky, nudged along by mostly gentle breezes. Well, that sky has closed, those breezes have vanished, and the soap bubbles of the past and future have all popped. On the surface, this seems like a negative development, but being forced to live nowhere but the Present is actually a blessing in disguise.
In his recent post on the Present, Dr. Charlton refers to C.S. Lewis's insistence that living in the Present is actually a Christian ideal, an ideal Lewis elaborates upon quite lucidly his The Screwtape Letters (bold added):
The humans live in time but our Enemy [God] destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity…..He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present–either meditating of their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.
Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past….[However] it is far better to make them live in the Future.…Future is, of all things, the thing leastlike eternity….the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men’s affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead….He[God] does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do.
As mentioned earlier in this post, the realization that we all live in the Present is not a revelation; however, the realization that the Present is the point in time at which time touches eternity is.
Whether being "trapped in the Present" is the result of a cock up within the current demonic machinations we are all experiencing or the influence of Divine Intervention is unclear. Regardless, one thing is certain - our current situation offers all of us a tremendous gift. For the first time in our lives, we are practically being forced to live in the Present, and by doing so we have been given the opportunity to touch eternity - to obey the present voice of conscience, to bear the present cross, to receive the present grace, and to give thanks for present pleasure.
At the end of our conversation, my wife and I agreed that we would simply need to get life day-to-day, moment-to-moment and make the most of each day and the moments that comprised it. We referred to as "living in the neverending Present."
The Neverending Present. Now that I think about it, I cannot conceive of a better definition for eternity.
Bruce Charlton reached a similar conclusion in his post - a conclusion he aimed specifically at Christians:
So! Christians are confronted by a clear, unavoidable and undiluted incentive for living this Present life in context of the world to come. Something which we ought to be attempting anyway... But now, we have little excuse for failing to make this choice.