5

The Moment

4 of 4
kanji

One can live only in the present moment.

The spring breeze:
How white the heron is
Among the pines.
                                    — Basho

Here is a snowy heron in another posture, flying like a white spirit through a grove of dark pine trees. Moment by moment he appears and disappears. If we are not alert to look in a different spot each moment, we shall miss him.

The dragonfly
Perches on the stick
Raised to strike him.

                                    — Kohyo

Here is super-alertness! Kohyo's dragonfly has sized up the situation in a lightning flash. How can the man strike at him if he is sitting on the fly swatter? If the man moves the swatter, the dragonfly gets the cue to flee. If the man does not move the swatter, well, he's perfectly safe. He has preserved his life by acting spontaneously, in reflexive response to his total input of stimuli. No second thoughts for him.

Lightning flash:
Still water gleams bright
Between the dark trees.

                                    — Shiki

If Shiki had not been as alert as a hunting heron, he would not have seen this vision. Life's vital moments flash upon us like the swiftly changing projections of a tachistoscope, testing our perceptions. If we walk through the dark wood of life thinking of the past and the future, we shall miss the bright actualities revealed by life's lightning flashes.