Being in the present. – August 6, 2015, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

“Do not drag the mind into the past nor into the future.” That’s a bit misleading I think, we need to reference the past and anticipate the future in order to continue in the present.
We learn from the past without letting it control us. Yes we found things that work in the past, we may even practice them, but if they do not work in the present we must abandon them or we will ourselves perish. Think about a kata, it is in the past, something you learned, perhaps even something that worked for someone at some time in the past, but if it does not work now it will do more harm than good. Think of a world with half a billion people, we can live well within the limits of growth, we can consume and grow, seemingly forever. Then comes the medical revolution, antibiotics and vaccination and the other benefits of science. Now infant mortality drops and humans multiply to the point where we have shot past the carrying capacity of our world. The old ways of living, the growth fixation (have lots of kids and maybe one of them will look after us when we’re old) will lead to a crash. Malthus was right, we should have crashed long ago, were it not for Borlag and the green revolution and oil-based nitrogen fertilizer combined with shorter wheat and higher yields. We dodged a bullet a generation ago, can we rely on some further scientific miracle to save us again so we can continue to grow?
It can’t work forever, simply cannot, and with a small amount of thought we can understand this. Populations that outrun the capacity of their environment collapse. We have limits, have always had them, yet when our fundamental belief systems were created those limits were not apparent. What worked for a population counted in the millions cannot work for one in the billions.
So why do the fundamentalist religions continue to advocate large families? Is it ignorance or rejection of science alone? Of course not, in democratic countries with declining birth rates those groups that can breed more voters will acquire more political power. It’s a numbers game.
What about the future? A swordsman (forgive the digression above, I am still talking sword) who does not anticipate, who does not live at least partly in the future, will only be able to react. We know that avoiding a sword stroke is impossible if one is not moving as it begins, yet without anticipation we can only react to what is already happening.
The present is not instantaneous, despite what the wise men say, it contains a basis in the past, it sits on a foundation of all that we have learned. The present contains and embraces a timeframe into the future, in a swordfight that timeframe is measured in fractions of a second, too short a time to actually think about moving, but time enough to move. In terms of politics (the policies by which we run our lives through our laws and practices as a group) we must think further down the line. Politicians may think in terms of months (what’s going to get me elected) but as a population, as a society, we need to think at least a generation ahead (how will my kids live?) and we need to try to guess even further to the future (what sort of world will my grandkids live in?). It is on that basis that we need to select our governments, not on whether we get some short term benefit from a power-seeking politician. The timeframes for that sort of thing are too short.
We know this sort of thing, my generation will remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper that we watched as kids. We cannot really live “in the moment” and expect to be living in the next moment. Winter is coming.
Yet if we want to be truly free of worry that is where we live, just in the moment. Vote for the candy that you eat today because it tastes good, don’t worry about the future, that just causes you to worry (by definition). If you want to be a carefree swordsman stand there and assume that you will come up with some sort of response to the attack that is coming. (Remember, the ant fed the grasshopper through the winter so someone else will take care of you in your old age right?)
If. Only if. You have worried about your future as a swordsman and you have practiced one hundred times, no thousands of times longer than your present sword fight will last, and you now put aside that past worry to clear your mind (your thinking, worrying mind) out of the way, perhaps your body will react, anticipate, and respond correctly.
It is preparation, not belief or wishful thinking (same thing?) that allows things to “just happen”. Being told everything is fine and some inner (or outer) power will protect you, and believing it, is a good way to be cut down where you stand.
Kim Taylor
August 6, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s