Get more out of life: put away the phone and dial into the now

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - OPINION - Fr Michael Com­mane

ON this Tues­day, 50 years ago, Septem­ber 15, 1967 a group of young men be­gan their novi­tiate year in the Do­mini­can Pri­ory in Pope’s Quay, Cork. There were nine of us. One left at the end of the novi­tiate, five dur­ing the fol­low­ing six years. Three of us were or­dained priests. One re­signed from priestly min­istry shortly af­ter or­di­na­tion. There are still two of us Do­mini­can priests.

There’s lit­tle point in liv­ing in the past or giv­ing it more im­por­tance than it de­serves. But ex­pe­ri­ence is a great teacher and surely we can learn from the past. What’s the point in be­ing con­cerned about the fu­ture? A wise man once said to me that the things we worry about sel­dom if ever hap­pen. All we have is the now.

I don’t re­mem­ber much, if any­thing, from the phi­los­o­phy classes, but I clearly re­call hear­ing a lec­turer say one day that all we have is the ‘nunc’. It al­ways sounds learned to say some­thing in Latin. Then again, I’m won­der­ing would I have re­mem­bered it had he sim­ply said that all we have is the now? The Rus­sian nov­el­ist Leo Tol­stoy says about the now: ‘It is the most im­por­tant time be­cause it is the only time when we have any power’.

A fel­low Do­mini­can writes a daily Gospel com­men­tary called good­news.ie. On one oc­ca­sion ear­lier this month he re­called how, as a child, his lo­cal priest was al­ways talk­ing about life af­ter death. Now as an adult he won­ders why the priest did not talk about the now.

It might be easy to talk about the past, hope for or worry about the fu­ture but the now is the time in which we live our lives. But that does not mean we live lives of res­ig­na­tion. Of course when peo­ple live in shock­ing sur­round­ings and con­di­tions it makes sense to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to change things and im­prove their lot.

In early Septem­ber, cy­cling in Dublin be­tween 8.15 and 9am, I saw chil­dren head­ing for school. At ev­ery street cor­ner chil­dren were head­ing for school. All dressed in new school uni­forms. Some were walk­ing, more on bi­cy­cles, oth­ers on scoot­ers. And then the tod­dlers head­ing to school for the first time. They were with their par­ents, a spe­cial day in the life of par­ents and chil­dren. But just to ob­serve it all, fleet­ingly from my bi­cy­cle, there was some­thing sim­ply de­light­ful about it. All one could do was to wish them well. So im­por­tant that they en­joy the day that was in it and make the best of it.

Some days later, this time ear­lier in the morn­ing, 7.10 to be ex­act, I saw some­one on the foot­path, wait­ing to cross the road. She was check­ing her mo­bile phone. Look­ing at her re­minded me of the news re­port about how Ir­ish Rail had recorded an in­crease in the num­ber of ac­ci­dents of peo­ple get­ting on and off trains. It seems they miss their step be­cause they are on their mo­bile phones.

Mo­bile phones dis­tract us from what we are do­ing and in that sense they take us away from the now, they take our at­ten­tion off the present moment. Mindfulness is about liv­ing in the now, be­ing ac­tively con­scious of what we are do­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing it.

There’s so much to see and ap­pre­ci­ate in front of our eyes. Fan­tasy world never lives up to the real thing. The gems that stare us in the face. It’s great when we spot them and seize the moment, carpe diem.

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