By T. Katz
Q: A lot of my friends talk about being “present” and attending weekend workshops (that I can’t afford) to learn more about how to live their best lives. What does it really mean anyway? Should I spend the money to go with them?
A: There is an awful lot of chatter right now about being “present” or “in the moment.” But, that’s not a new concept. A long time ago, cartoonist Bil Keane was credited with saying, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” And Mr. Keane knows a thing or two about living. In fact, two of his closest friends were Erma Bombeck and Charles Schulz, who were also top observers of the human condition. Those three individuals presented some of the most powerful and universal truths about life, family, how to be and how to behave. But, their dogma wasn’t terribly high falutin’. They didn’t develop weekend retreats or fancy schmancy workshops around their principles and they didn’t tromp about the country shouting at fervent audiences from podiums. They quietly presented their beliefs through one of the most inexpensive communication devices known to mankind: the newspaper. Sure, we now have the internet for lightning fast, right-now, in-your-palm/face information, but once upon a time – vitally important insights about human nature were found in the Sunday Funny Pages in the comics “The Family Circus” (by Keane, drawn by his son Jeff) and “Peanuts” (Schulz), and in a short column called “At Wit’s End” (Bombeck). All three focused their humorist’s magnifying glass on humans, studying our behavior, then magically distilling it down, revealing moments in time that we can still today recognize and relate to. [I can only imagine their tasks would be much more difficult if they were to try and only capture people glued to screens, as most folks are nowadays.]
Being “present” can be defined as being focused on the moment you’re in. In other words, making a concentrated effort to not think about what’s coming up or what’s already happened. That’s a very watered-down definition, but that’s basically the idea in a nutshell. Honestly, it’s a lovely concept and having that approach to living can only make life more enjoyable, as you engage all your senses to intake information as it’s received (a Smell the roses! Taste the berries! See the sunset! sort of thing). But, I gotta tell you – I’m a big believer in learning from the past and preparing for the future. We can’t leave that sentence out of our daily walk through the world. If we do, we run the risk of becoming self-serving weasels. I don’t want to be a weasel. I don’t want you to be a weasel. I’m not a fan of weasels. I am a fan of the wise words of those who came before me. Those words are still available for life’s student, willing to learn. You need only Google the three above-mentioned writers. Consider it a present to yourself.
xo – t.