“Now” by Ransom Summers…a guest post.
– Now –
The wooden clock will chime
the time –
once every hour, in fact.
is life. So take a bow!
the moment you must plow
right through the temporal door
onto this stage of yours?
The time to act is now!
“Live in the now.”
“Now is the time to act.”
“We are now approaching our destination.”
“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity,” – Screwtape
What do we mean when we say ‘now’? When is it? You cannot measure it. As soon as you say the word ‘now’ it is in the past. Your very act of reading now is moving along from past to the future words.
Mirriam Webster online dictionary gives us these definitions:
a: at the present time or moment
b : in the time immediately before the present now>c : in the time immediately to follow : forthwith now>
2—used with the sense of present time weakened or lost to express command, request, or admonition
3—used with the sense of present time weakened or lost to introduce an important point or indicate a transition (as of ideas)
For our purposes, let us look at ‘now’ as ‘the present’ or ‘the moment’ (though Mirriam Webster does not use ‘the present’ as a noun, using ‘present’ as an adjective to form the phrase ‘the present time). “The present” can be seen as synonymous with “now” I think. Without bending grammar too much we could even consider “now” to be the proper noun for “the present.” So, what do we mean when we say “now?”
Well, as part of a command, it means “immediately.” For example, an irate mother calling her son: “Johnny H. Erickson, get your rear over here NOW!” I had many such imperatives shouted to me when I was a boy. That is simple and easy to understand. It’s a case of “at this present time, begin the task which I assigned you.”
But then there is the much more involved use of “now” which is part of the popular phrase “living in the now” (which, personally, I have always disliked to some extent in my prudish, purist, writer’s way, thinking that “living in the present” or “living in the moment” was the proper way to express that idea). It is also commonly used in the phrase “choose now” or its equivalent. In fact, if you look at how the phrase “living in the now” is commonly used, it is very often tied into choices facing a person. Granted, many of the choices justified by the phrase “living in the now” are foolish ones but they are still choices. What these foolish choices represent is a state of mind concerned only with the more immediate situation and not possible consequences down the line. At the time of this writing, there is a popular phrase in American youth “you only live once” or shortened to the acronym “YOLO.” I have heard it described as “carpe diem for idiots.” I tend to agree.
In any event, that is not the whole explanation for the word and idea of “now.” When you get down to it, the “now” in carpe diem refers to a day (literally) or, in common use, a specific chunk of time. But when the choice actually comes to be made, then that quantity of time has shrunk down quite small indeed.
Like I mentioned at the very beginning, the present is a point. In fact, mathematically speaking (dipping a toe very lightly into the world of theoretical physics) “now” is exactly that – a point – a fourth dimensional point. I am going to assume that you know something about geometry, but for the sake of my explanation, I shall do a bit of, well, explaining.
A point, is a thing that does not actually exist. It has no dimension in any of the three that something must have to exist (height, depth, and width). I’ll skip over the line, square, and cube examples. Then comes the fourth dimension, time. For something to exist, it must have a length of duration. If it does not exist for any period of time, it does not exist at all. It must travel from one point in time to another. So, all of space (the three dimensions) has to travel along a fourth linear dimension, and when we measure that line, we call it time.
I know that was a bit involved but I think a video I discovered on youtube (shown to me by a friend, far more intelligent than I) may help with the exposition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkxieS-6WuA (watch up to time 5:12)
The moment/present/now (whichever you wish to call it) is one point on the line of time but we, as people existing in these three dimensions and traveling along the fourth, cannot view it objectively. It is (as the video called it) a cross section of time, living moment by moment. You’ll have noticed the narrator also said out choices “could branch off at any moment.” So, what we really live choice to choice.
So, I think the best identifier we have for “now” is choices. Now is when we choose. Of course, this raises some questions about who *we* are as beings existing in these dimensions. I will save that discussion for another time. For now, I will simply refer to us human beings as “people” and we can hash out what we mean by that later. But for us, as people, “now” is when we choose. Now is when we act, speak, and think.
Now is when a person decides to pull the trigger and become a murderer.
Now is when a husband decides to that his passions are more important than his wedding vows.
Now is when a soldier decides that his body will make a suitable shield between his brothers and a grenade.
Now is when you decide that getting drunk out of your mind would be a good idea.
Now is when the man plucks up the courage to ask his girl to marry him.
Now is when I choose to type this next thought.
Now is when I decide I need a shower and take a break from writing this to go cleanse myself and think some more about what I’m trying to say and how to present it.
Now is when I decide to pick up a pretzel and put it in my mouth.
All across the spectrum of importance, we are making choices constantly. Now is when that happens. But each of these choices have immense import whether we realize it or not. Each choice shapes our lives – it has an impact on our outcome and our nature. Going by the ideas in that video, choices shape our fifth dimension.
It is a weighty thought, isn’t it? It ought to make you ponder for a time. What am I choosing? Why am I choosing it? Where will my choice lead? What effects will it have?
So, let me ask. How are you shaping your fifth dimension? As a person, an aware individual, you have some control over what end-state you will arrive at. Where are you going? What are you doing *right now*? That one is actually easy, you are reading a blog. But after you choose to close this browser window, what will you choose to do?
But there is another aspect to “now” that ought to be addressed. You never escape the now. You are always making decisions – there is no way to do nothing. So, while you ought to be aware of the import of your decisions, decide! It is often good to decide to wait – but, decide to wait, do not default to it. It is not just a question of putting the present into context but making sure that the present is not wasted.
So, I encourage you, my dear readers, to “live in the moment” and be aware of the fact that you live from choice to choice – but also to have awareness of the world that you live in and the import your choices have. Each choice you make changes the entire future of your life. It folds that fourth dimension into into the fifth and alters the shape of time. In a way, your “now” is forever.