No Thought for the Morrow
Sometimes, staying alive seems too high a price to pay for the privilege of not being dead. Nevertheless, people find ways to cope, including comforting mantras such as “This too shall pass.” One ubiquitous expression advises us to “Take one day at a time.” I satirized this earnest injunction with an epigram which became the title of one of my books: I TRY TO TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME – BUT SOMETIMES SEVERAL DAYS ATTACK ME AT ONCE.
The trouble is that even one day can contain so many difficulties that the only answer seems to be further subdivision of time. That approach, however, contains its own bag of worms, because, no matter how small the pieces you try to chop time into, you still have a divisible segment. Even as teenager, I wrestled with this problem, and came up with what I thought then was an original concept, which I called a “Time-Atom” – i.e., the smallest possible length of time – within which there could be no movement or change. (Having no Google then to disabuse me, I didn’t know I’d been anticipated in this concept by Friedrich Nietzsche in 1873, 60 years before my birth.)
But only recently, I’ve conceived a new twist on this idea – which even Google seems unable to pre-empt. Have you ever seen one of those clock-faces on which, instead of each of the standard 12 numerals, there is the little word “Now”? Of course, we’re all aware of the paradox that, no matter how time seems to pass, it’s really always now. And unlike a time-atom (since even atoms can be split), NOW has no duration at all. So there’s no time or space whatever between one “Now” and the next.
It occurs to me that a whole philosophy or religion could have this beautiful truth as its basis. And I have a name for it: NOW-ism. No doubt, this will immediately prompt you to ask some legitimate questions, which I will try to answer.
(1) How would a belief in NOW-ism affect a person’s life, behavior, and outlook?
Answer: A Nowist considers what we call Past and Future equally unreal. He (or, of course, she) accepts such terms as “Today” and “the Present” only as convenient conventions.
(2) If there is only now, how is it possible to make plans for the future?
Answer: Imagining the future, and attempting to shape it, can all be part of the Post-Past and Pre-Future.
(3) What has become of all previous Nows?
Answer: Your question reminds me of the epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, of which he was the architect. It says in Latin, “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice” – which means “If you seek his monument, look about you.” The legacies of all past Nows are embodied in the Now you are currently experiencing. If you want to know what happened to all previous Nows, look about you.
(4) Do Nowists believe in God?
Answer: The Theology of Nowism embraces a wide variety of deities, including mathematics, cosmology, and nuclear physics.
(5) Are there any particular characteristics associated with Nowists?
Answer: Nowists tend to be more careful, and also more loving, than the average person. They are acutely aware of the dangers and joys of each moment. You may notice them breathing more deeply and performing little acts of kindness to strangers.
(6) How do Nowists think about death?
Answer: One of the attractions of Nowism is that you don’t have to think about it all. Aging and dying are usually a lengthy process, containing an infinite number of Nows. In most situations, the Nowist can say to himself, “There is only Now – and this particular Now isn’t so bad, is it?”
(7) What are the disadvantages of Nowism?
Answer: Apart from the slight annoyance of being confused with Taoism – through similar-sounding names—there’s the danger of being misunderstood by people who’ll dismiss you as a “Fatalist” who considers everything predetermined, or as a “Hedonist” looking only for pleasure. Some of these critics may be won over, when they see what a meaningful life you are living, valuing every moment as a precious gift.
Let me conclude with some words of Jesus, who may have been one of the great Nowists of all time. According to the Book of Mathew, he taught his followers:
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”