With a good friend, I recently went on a 5 day 1,738 mile drive in my 40 year old British sports car. Part of the drive was a competitive 420 mile antique car rally which challenged our driving, navigating, and decision making skills. It led us to places we never would have expected – like a logging road suitable only for Jeeps, as well as a stream crossing. In each moment, decisions were made, some good, some not so good. But as we tried to make sense of the clues, navigate and drive to check points, each decision had to be left in the past, just as each new challenge had to be met in the present. Even as we tried to plan for the future, we could not know what it held for us. The here and now is where we had to be. This is my 7th year competing in this remarkable rally, and the best part is being fully present with the amazing men and women who are the organizers, workers and competitors.
During the long drive home, a Jack Johnson song came to mind. It’s a surfing song, and at the end, a surfer is talking about his philosophy of surfing. He says that what surfing is really all about is being present, really present, in the here and now. It’s not about the past, and it’s not about the future. It’s about living in the present.
This idea of living in the present has a lot of Biblical support. In The Message version of the Bible, Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 says: “After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.”
And in Matthew Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ... But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:25, 33-34.
I don’t mean to minimize the problems of the day or dismiss the concerns of the future. There is plenty to think about in our lives and in our world. But the distractions of the moment, and perhaps worries about the future, regrets of the past, or the omnipresence of technology, often keep us from really being in the present. There is a lot to be said for being fully in the present – with our loved ones, in our work, in our joys, and in our sorrows.