Working to overcome the need to work to overcome.

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run…”

Rudyard Kipling (1895)

‘How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour’

–Isaac Watts (1715)

This is, in my view, the central toxicity of Western culture, and what makes it so hard for us to understand the simple truth of Eckhart Tolle’s first book and all its many Eastern predecessors.

I’ve written a poem or two on this theme.

In my experience, Asians and Africans are more likely to live fully in the moment, and Europeans (especially the privileged classes) are likely to define each moment by what is accomplished therein. Many indigenous people are perfectly happy to spend hours on end watching the sun follow its path across the sky. The truth is that each moment is a self-contained reason for being alive. The toxic Western myth is that each moment is to be invested toward a better future.

Of course, the future never arrives; or if it does arrive, we are so accustomed to drawing reward from accomplishment (rather than experience) that finally reaping what we have sown actually causes us to feel anxious.

I have been aware since age twenty-something of this paradox at the core of my approach to life, but have made little “progress” (how deeply this idea of progress pervades my conceptual space!) toward living in the moment.

Now I find myself flat on my back for weeks on end. Perhaps I can permit this experience to transform me. Perhaps I can shed the compulsion to accomplish. Perhaps I will recieve the gift of inhabiting the experience of each moment.

— JJM

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