The Apple of the Present - A Resolution
Usually the first thing everyone talks about when the New Year rolls around is their New Year’s resolutions. What didn’t happen during the previous year and resolving to make it happen during the coming year; promising to become happier, healthier, wealthier, or more productive; promising to take more time for your family or yourself — all noble resolutions to be sure, but somewhat less than certain that they will ever come to pass. Often thought of as part of our journey from the imperfect now where we are today to the perfect future where we want to be, New Year’s resolutions serve as guideposts to dreams. We do not often allow ourselves to dream about our future, but we have given ourselves permission to place particular importance upon the ones we value the most when the calendar year draws to a close and the promise of fresh new beginnings is raising optimistic glints in everyones’ eyes.
It’s a matter of perception.
Our reaction to and perception of the past is often subdued at best, and in the quietness of our hearts we know we could have done better, accomplished more, acted more purposefully, or loved more passionately. We take the past as the bellwether of things to come and it is with no little apprehension that we face the coming year with a tinge of self-judgment.
Our perception of the future is nearly always rosy. After all, why would anyone want a future filled with turmoil, strife, and hardship? Tomorrow always brings with it the release of old limitations and the promise of new fulfillments. The past is something we have already tried and moved beyond. The past, the one each individual experiences, may have been an amazing symphony of momentous challenges overcome and fabulous rewards claimed.
It is the past that we turn our backs on and the future that we pin our sights on.
I once heard of a man, an important teacher to thousands and the head of his community, who resolved to give up apples. Not because he didn’t like apples — he loved them and ate a few every day. No, this man gave up apples because something deep down within himself recognized that for a resolution to mean anything, it had to hit him where he lived. It occurred to him that any resolution is not about accomplishing something as it is about determining to strengthen your character in some fashion.
Do you love apples? Their juicy deliciousness? Their wholesome crunch? This man did. He knew that, for a resolution to stand any chance of strengthening his character, he needed to give up something he cherished rather than dream up something he desired.
This brought him to an important understanding of the nature of desire. Giving up apples was a way for him to bring his awareness back to the present moment. Any desire for an apple, which had earlier been an ingrained habit for him, reminded him that the present doesn’t actually need apples to be savored. It is delicious just as it is.
When we look at the past, we are seeing it from the present perspective of who we are now. In this fashion, the past seems to us like a condition of lack because from the standpoint of the present moment, the past can never be as richly sensual nor as fully experienced as the present. The past is a tape we run in the present, a story about other presents we have experienced — where we were in time and who we perceived ourselves to be. We can never run this tape from the past. It always plays out in our memories in the present moment.
From the standpoint of the present, our past desires will always be poor 2D renditions of our multidimensional now, much like looking at low-resolution b&w prints. The emotional color, the experiential saturation, the sense of movement is nothing how we experience the present.
On the other hand, our imaginations usually turn our futures into stupendous technicolor productions of beautiful complexity and appeal. We are entertained by our futures because we love to consider how it would feel to have that thing, experience that condition, love that person, build that ediface, or discover that treasure.
The future engages our emotional selves in a way that few things do for many of us in the present. Our present selves may be routine bound, discouraged, and worn out. Our present selves may have lost sight of what inspires us and become gray shadows in the glorious world when once we were lit up by the flames of our creativity and optimism.
The future is a movie ticket to that inspired source within that trusts in the goodness of things. The future is about having faith in the face of the unknown to come. From the standpoint of the present, our future dreams will always be larger than life, but that largeness occurs only in our imaginations, not in life itself.
Life itself is always present, eternally and infinitely so. Life is the essential stuff of existence in our universe, and who’s to say whether the very stars themselves are not alive with some mysterious force that we all sense but rarely explore in depth. Science has pointed out to us that the atoms in our bodies, and indeed the entire cosmos, came from the stellar birthplace of billions of stars. Religion adds the qualities of awareness and moral action to this act of creation and humanizes it by assigning it to a creator. Is it any wonder that we experience our future as a sort of brightly shining re-experience of our stellar birth?
And what has all that to do with resolving to give up apples? Simply this: the present, not the past or the future, is where our life takes place. To the extent that we are conscious of our resolutions in the present moment, we are able to affect real changes in our lives. Dwelling in the past is settling for a limited version of the now, and anticipating the future is imagining our own perfectability. Learn from the past, energize your creative imagination from the future, but always live in the present.
Your New Year’s resolutions will be firmly anchored in your life if you do so, but do it NOW!
Tim Thompson is a professional freelance writer/editor whose work with Dream Manifesto helps illuminate life for online and offline audiences around the world. He is currently busy working on several writing and editing projects. Please visit Thompson InkWorks [http://www.thompsoninkworks.com/] for more info.