So much to appreciate in front of our eyes
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 9 a.m., 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.