Barefoot Buddhism, Chasing the NOW…

IMG_0738‘NOW’ is a buzzword equal to or greater than any other these days in New Age thought, ersatz Buddhist philosophy or joint-less meditations on the human condition, foregoing the deep ruminations on inner conditions and outer connections in favor of a lighter and more superficial treatment of the matters at hand: love, peace and happiness. And I like it, BUT…

What is it exactly? ‘Nowness’ is usually described as ‘this present moment’, but that only begs the question of whether there is such a thing or not, and if so, then WTF are we really talking about, i.e. what is it? Now we know that it is a convenient shorthand in grammatical tenses, but that means little or nothing, since in many languages the present serves mostly as a generalized non-tense, more than any one specific moment…

But if it is a moment, then how do we define that moment? That is the problem, not conceptualizing it, or even merely conceiving it, for short, but measuring it. How long is a moment? What unit of time does it measure? When is it over? Can I have another one? How many moments until we get to Texas? You can see the problem…

So let’s just say that a moment is the smallest unit of time that a human can reasonably imagine, the smaller the better. So is that a millisecond or a microsecond, or a Planck unit? This could get ridiculous, of course, and it does. By using this ‘momentary’ definition of the Now, or Presence, we must continually shorten our surf-boards in order to ride that vanishing point and fast-rising edge that separates the past and the future, and which we tentatively call NOW…

So we could cure that spot of bother by adopting a broader definition, in which the Now is not a vanishing point that divides the past and future, but a generalized Present, Now-ness as non-tense, in a revised English language without all the tenses and the tensions, more a Chinese-like ‘analytic language’ which it has long been evolving toward, much more so than any other declension-and-conjugation-filled Romance language or even the obstacle courses of German, Russian or Hindi (I’m currently studying the ancient canonical Pali language: don’t ask)…

Our only certainty is that we Westerners are obsessed with time (and gender, heh heh), and while that may indeed be the fourth dimension as described by Einstein, unhealthy obsessions are still just that, since no one is building a philosophy based on this one point in space, much less selling thousands of books based on that insight (names withheld). But it is just as valid, that this one point in space is all that matters, so let’s call it ‘Hereness’…

And that’s just the point that Baba Ram Dass was making, however tentatively, in his landmark period piece “Be Here Now”, the equivalence of the two, even if they differ somewhat, time apparently moving in a line, while space is more radial. But are they really much different? Euclidean geometry is where we get our 3-D model of the universe, but is it accurate for the multi-verse?

Einstein found something better in Reimann’s geometry, and even for us landlocked non-genius mortals, it doesn’t take too much imagination to see some artificiality in three dimensions, cube-like, space measured as LxWxD, when two might work just as well, ball-like, space measured as RxRx3.1415926535—or something like that, more or less…

We tend to live in cubes, but is the world defined by cubes (crystals noted, yeah, thanks, got it)? If space is curved, as now generally accepted, then a line becomes geodesic, and two dimensions might indeed be enough to describe and circumscribe space as accurately and intelligently. But I digress…

Have you noticed that most English-language novels are written in past tense? I have. The one advantage of the past is its certainty, supposedly, and hence its accuracy, but is that really the case? Not if it’s based on memory, which has proved to be immensely fallible and the subject of tens of thousands of court rulings that have overturned with DNA evidence what eye-witness testimony once swore to be true…

And the advantage of the future is that it can be whatever you want it to be, pure mathematical probability. There’s lots of wiggle room there, with a simple tweak of the equation. Bottom line: It’s probably better to forget the One Present Moment and settle for a Now that includes more than one point of Here-ness, and more than one point of Now-ness, broader and more inclusive, one that at least includes the near-past and near-future as part of that indefinable present continuum…

That is: if I think about the past, or the future, I’m thinking about it NOW, which is different from what once happened way back when, or what WILL happen at some point in the future, so the problem is more linguistic than real, I’d say, a problem of definition more than determination, a problem of misplaced identities. BTW how do you spell W-i-t-t-g-e-n-s-t-e-i-n? Better ask Buber… “I before he, except after thee”…