Hello all! My latest article went up last week, entitled "God's Gift of the Present." You can read the full article over at Catholic Stand!
What got me thinking on this topic is that I finally read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. There were many things I underlined and thought, "Ah! Yeah." The genius of the book is how well it calls out the weaknesses found in human nature, which somehow also highlights the beauty of what makes us human. We can be jealous, but we can also be loving. We are self-interested, and self-sacrificing. The devils find those latter traits utterly pointless and befuddling.
One of the many philosophical points that stood out to me was in the letter in which Uncle Screwtape instructs his nephew about the human concept of time. These devils are always looking for ways to, you know, bedevil us. Screwtape points out that humans are always seeking the future, as if getting there is not only guaranteed, but will be better than the present. When it isn't, we resent God. Further, he instructs that nothing is so least like eternity - that which we are destined for - than the unknowable, vague future on earth. It is a wonderful trick that we humans play on ourselves (or the devils play on us) and which serves no purpose but to upset us and make us angry at God for the mistake of our own blind anticipation.
This brought me back to one of the big things I learned during my Ignatian spirituality retreat "in daily life" earlier this year. There were a few days where the whole purpose of the prayer time was just to think about God in everything, outside of time, and very much in the present. By practicing this sort of groundedness, in that particular prayer and in general throughout the retreat, I felt a perspective shift. I hadn't realized how I neglected the present, the only real moment there is. It's an active practice, to appreciate this moment right now. No rushing to the next meeting, phone call or activity, but sitting in the acknowledgement of the current conversation, the sound of the rain falling, the value of something which takes more of your time than you'd like it to.
I really do wonder, what is it about humans that makes us always reach for something else than what we have. It seems to be both critical to our human nature - that's what drives us to success, and I think you could say toward God - yet we also often experience this sense of "What's next?" solely through the lens of "When does it get better?" Is it hard for us to accept when things are good in the present, and show gratitude for that? I think that could be part of it. That's something I am keeping at the front of mind and practicing now: acknowledgement of, and gratitude for, the present moment, even when it isn't just exactly what I want or somehow expected. There is a lesson in every day God gives us, even if it's just to be able to learn to appreciate what you have, right now.