Do you ever get tired of the rhetoric for ‘living in the moment’ and seizing the day, a la carpe diem? Whether we like it or not, the cliché reflects truth—we constantly face a barrage of reasons to live for the moment. So, where do we look now? Let’s skip back a few centuries.
The sage Balthasar Gracian has bestowed on this world an eternal load of worldly spiritual wisdom that has an immensity of application. Biting this off in little pieces is good for us. It’s a diet of spiritual goodness.
“Our acts and thoughts and all must be determined by circumstances... time and tide wait for no [person]. Do not live by certain fixed rules, except those that relate to the cardinal virtues. Nor let your will subscribe fixed conditions, for you may have to drink the water to-morrow which you cast away to-day. There be some so absurdly paradoxical that they expect all the circumstances of an action should bend to their eccentric whims and not vice versa. The wise [person] knows that the very polestar of prudence lies in steering by the wind.”
We can do so much planning; there comes a point of action and at times the plan simply can’t afford the action necessary—for a good many reasons; this is life.
We can but go with the flow of life, and as it blows we’re either taken with it or we remain—and there’s a time for both.
Being flexible enough to gauge life via the broader bunch of virtues without falling foul for the appeal to be legalistic in setting rigid, unworkable rules requires great skill and focus, and these applied over time. This outlook is the ever-discerning modus operandi.
What we throw out—thinking inconsequential—today, we’ll often need tomorrow, and perhaps even our lives will depend on them. The sage illustrates via our common use (and abuse) of water. It would be better to be a keenly observant user of resources now, training ourselves for that unforeseeable time when perceptibly insignificant things ‘will matter.’
‘Steering with the wind,’ as mentioned previously, is no easy thing as it goes against the natural grain of our mental and emotional persuasions. We do not easily trust in that which is not of our own. But, we must if we’re to live freely in and for this moment, right now.
Who is this ‘absurdly paradoxical’ person? It is me and it is you. We all behave in these ways expecting things to turn on a whim and a prayer. And this is the point of the foregoing. To be a friend of the moment we must seek to let go of this shallow propensity.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.