Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? …Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.Gospel of Matthew 6:31/34
One of the most evident signs of our spiritual pathology is our preoccupation with change. We are constantly admonished that “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” This preoccupation with change is a symptom of our living for the future rather than in the present. It is yet another indicator of our proclivity toward living in a fantasy world of words and symbols rather than in reality.
Of course, the future never comes. No matter when you are, the future is always not yet. If we live for the future we are necessarily disappointed, since it is certain that at some point we will run out of future. A lesser symptom of this major illness is living for the weekend. If we see Monday through Friday as nothing but a means to Saturday and Sunday, we are relinquishing 71% of our lives. Certainly, everyone must do some things which they do not like to do – perhaps taking out the trash is a good example. One may adopt a Zen-like attitude about it, but it is still taking out the trash, and unlikely to be very fulfilling. And so it is with some other aspects of our lives; but to damn large portions of our lives to a job we hate is to turn oneself into a machine – the only way that the psyche can survive spending 40-55 hours per week doing some hateful task is to essentially disengage, turning oneself into an automaton in the process. This leaves the doer unfulfilled and the task poorly done, benefiting no one.
Thoreau wrote that “the mass of men leads lives of quiet desperation” – and now, more than a hundred years later, we have added women to this list as well. How far have we really come? In the United States it is now very difficult (and in some cases impossible) for a family to live on a single income, forcing both spouses to be tied to an endless cycle of working both away from home and in it. There is little time for enjoyment, and even less for reflection and study. What time for recreation there is, we try to pack with activities that stimulate and excite us (reminding us that we are, indeed, alive) and at the same time fatigue us to the point that we are unproductive at our jobs. Which doesn’t matter, of course, because almost no one else is either, and so no one notices.
We are becoming a species of spiritual automatons, but there is a way out.
“If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.” ― Ludwig Wittgenstein
Image of replica of Thoreau's cabin at Walden: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:177872-004-FEC2F097[dot]jpg