It is no coincidence that some of the most quoted words, phrases, poems strike a chord within us simply because they are conveying an eternal truth.
While many will be happy sit back and listen to the flow of the words or find solace in the message they appear to promise, I believe a more responsible course of action is to investigate what it is beneath the surface that makes such a phrase or poem so rich in meaning.
By way of example, let us take Jesus’ timeless words, where he gives us the following advice:
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
(Matthew 6:34 – 1611 King James Version)
I am sure many of us have heard these words at one time or another. Immediately there is something about this verse which challenges our automatic beliefs, for most of us have been conditioned to think continually about our future as we go about our everyday lives.
But what Jesus appears to be saying quite adamantly is that we should instead consider what is happening ‘now’, for there is plenty to attend to this very moment. Surely this contradictory advice warrants some further investigation.
Firstly I wish to discount the slightly absurd notion that this is in some way an affirmation of Horace’s famous “Carpe Diem”, and usual frivolously hedonistic meaning attached to it, which runs along the lines, “enjoy today with no heed of tomorrow.” Basically an excuse to indulge one’s selfish whims with little consideration for others or one’s surroundings. We only need to turn on the news or open a magazine to see this behaviour being enacted out on a daily basis.
In order to have an understanding of its depth of meaning, we literally have draw a halt to the momentum of our lives. Stop Now! Observe the never ending flow of thoughts which race before us like clouds across the sky on a gusty day. Thoughts which are continually pulling us this way and that – either into the future or the past and so rarely into now. To be here and now requires the effort to arrest thoughts – such as the moments we are able to give our attention to viewing a painting or work of art. But how often does this happen?
Surely a better course would be to try to understand the concept of time as we are accustomed to view it i.e. how it has been taught to us. For this is essentially what Jesus is alluding to. Few would dispute that time as we know it consists of a past and future, divided by a thin line known as the present. That we are usually in the former two, and only occasionally between them – in the present.
But what if we start at Now i.e. what we call the present? Stop focussing on thoughts – the clouds streaming before us. What can be added to this now? Where is past and future right now? Surely any past you conjure up can now longer be past because you are dragging it into the now. And where is the future?
Try this experiment. Focus fully on now and raise your finger when the future arrives. Of course it never will, providing you honest with yourself and are fully attentive to now.
Seeing this might lead you to the uncomfortable realisation that we in effect never live. If living is occurring now – which it is – with continual thoughts for tomorrow, when we reach tomorrow we shall be thinking of the following tomorrow and so on – until that final tomorrow of our lives. At which point we might take a glance back and think to ourselves… hang on! Maybe I missed something.
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”
The truth of this will become apparent when one is able to dispel the myth of time. There is no past, no future – and without them there can be no present either. All there is is Now. No use thinking about it. We will never comprehend this from the point of view of mind, just as we will never understand what we term life. Then do we need to know? Isn’t ‘living’ it enough?
Or as Jesus says, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”