The Moment

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One can live only in the present moment.


Reflect: A thousand years are only a day in the life of fish. The ancestors of this underwater creature looked the same to their brothers and to their predators, a thousand years ago, as this big carp does now. The millennia pass and the big round eyes stare at the various shapes in this corner of the subaqueous universe. The tails and fins perform the same constant movements; each fish is perpetually poised for the life-preserving flight or attack.

In the liquid currents the grasses sway, responsive in each of a billion moments to the slightest movement in their medium, drinking in the nutriments from sun and water. The curves of their stems repeat the undulant curves of a fish's body.


In this hushed, soundless, submarine corner of the living world, time—the time of commuters, of airlines, of count-down—seems not to exist. Instead, there exists only the organismal moment—the beat of the heart, the inflow and outflow of oxygen-bearing water, the reflex action of fin muscles, the movements of stem and leaf cells. Each action lasts its moment and then is no more. There is no past on which each fish broods, nor any future which makes its heart beat faster. The fish and the grasses live suspended in the watery moment, at one with the environment that sustains them.

When we human beings can stop using language or when we can use it to cope simply and purely and only with the present moment, we find that the quality of our living is changed. In the midst of a fast volley of tennis, or when we stop suddenly by a pond in spring and listen to hundreds of peepers, or as we watch a spaceship take off and gather speed at the start of its lunar journey—at such moments we are at one with ourselves. All our forces are concentrated unreflectingly, unselfconsciously, on the playing, listening, watching. We are living at our best.