Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Bad Side of Living in the Moment

Buddhists are always telling you to live in the moment, under the theory that neither the past nor future have any real essence. These may influence us but one is gone and the other is comprised of a set of longings and expectations that have yet to be. Unfortunately this  rather unrealistic philosophy is belied by the history of psychiatry. Freud said "neurosis is reminiscence." So much for the past no longer being a player. You may train yourself, but the past is like the mold cast by a sculptor. You make your bed and then have to sleep in it. The future similarly may be defined as the state of protracted wistfulness that characterizes practically all of human existence. The fact is if we all lived in the moment, life would be a pretty dull thing. Romanticism is predicated on  a preference for the imagined over the real. Would it be advantageous to curtail the delectable flights of fancy emanating from over active imaginations like the one possessed by Madame Bovary? Living in the moment is a little like taking an Advil for a headache. You may want to live in the moment to cure yourself from the aches and pains of regret or longing, but anyone who lacked these feelings would be one-dimensional, a bot in human form. Consider the idea of Kierkegaard living in the moment. He would never have written Either/Or in which he says, "The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself. But one can be absent, obviously, either in the past or the future." You learn this kind of stuff on the job, ie from being unhappy. Imagine Kierkegaard sitting in some Zendo, eating brown rice and freeing his mind from thought. What a loss it would have been for philosophy and humanity!

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