The present need not be so tense.


True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future. – Seneca

Our dominator culture is so firmly entrenched in the future tense that “will have,” “will be done,” and “shall be” define the prevailing mindset of the multitudes. The constant pursuit of wants and desires is resulting in a slow demise of the ability to appreciate the majesty of the moment.  I’m not saying this is good or bad one way or the other, it’s merely an observation.  However, I do believe that lasting happiness cannot be found anywhere else but through contentment within the framework of one’s own life.  The constant quest for one experiential satisfaction after another leads to happiness, but only as long as the novelty of an acquisition lasts. Once this stage nears conclusion, a new freshness is identified and the path begins anew.  The time honored maxim “the excess of virtue is vice” is usually attributed to Aristotle and remains no less meritorious today.  We have taken the Protestant work ethic to new levels of absurdity and our culture seems to embrace elaboration of materialism above any other virtue. Person to person interactions almost always begin with the question, “So, what do you do (to acquire things)?”

Eastern traditions used the word “samsara” to describe this constant seeking, from the Sanskrit meaning “to wander.” This relentless pursuit of transient satisfactions is  contrasted with “nirvana” which literally means “to blow out.”  So we actually achieve the nirvanic state by literally “blowing out” the flame of desire that drives the endless wandering.  As we continue to march into the great unknown, our collective unconscious will eventually mature to the point where we discard the misguided notion that lasting happiness is strongly correlated with fulfilling wants.  Whether our ambitions are directed at an attractive woman, a new car, promotion, etc., satisfaction continues to remain elusive despite the advancement and sophistication of modern modes of existence. The aforementioned maturation is facilitated only by gaining an awareness and understanding of our true selves.  As opposed to a post mortem Judgment Day where our net good is calculated, adopt a philosophy whereby every day is one of judgment.  If we observe our minds and apply our introspective tendencies on these “Days of Judgment,” we will quickly realize that what we seek isn’t listed in the Niemen Marcus catalog, but within ourselves.  This can easily be reconciled with the teachings of non-euhemeristic traditions that advocate a moment by moment philosophy as the path to happiness.  A great many books addressing Eastern philosophy are centered on the wisdom of living in the present.

The beauty of art, whether song, sculpture, or some other adumbration of the creative faculty, is that its beauty is wholly encapsulated in the present. A painting will elicit a similar soul stirring response whether viewed in 1597 or 2007, the different observers having neither lost nor gained some notable advantage as a result of his position on the timeline.  A sculpture does not need the future tense to define its beauty, as what it “will be” is not a consideration necessary for appreciation.  Similarly, a song is only enjoyed while we listen, and one does not hurry through to the end for a quick neurotransmitter bump. Acquiring an appreciation for all types of artistic expression is a vital tool in teaching ourselves how to embrace the present.  Art however, seems to be ever shifting beyond the purview of a middle class existence and remains largely the province of more affluent persons.

I think it’s imperative that we reawaken the ability to appreciate and create works of art in all children of our society.  The indoctrination process of schooling presently serves only to convert present oriented children into future oriented consumers, and the lack of funding for the arts merely hastens this process.  The benefit of drama, music, and other right-brain learning is paramount in presenting some semblance of opposition to the imposition of a samsaric-like existence on the young.  IMHO, at certain ages, art education is more valuable to the development of a thriving individual than the current 3R’s paradigm.  Teaching solely for the purpose of achieving quantifiable test results in reading, ’riting, and ‘rithmetic is a recipe for disaster.  I offer the present educational system as evidence of my assertion.  If even a remote possibility exists that rediscovering and articulating aesthetics can yield a more engaging educational experience, then why not try it?  Here’s a wild suggestion, decrease the 40-50 cents of every tax dollar spent on the patronage of death and destruction and re-direct it to funding the arts programs in schools.

I’d like to leave you with an image of the magnificent “Monument to Francesco Oneto” by Giulio Monteverde.  I gotta admit, from the moment I laid eyes upon this beautiful work, I have been mesmerized. She had me from “Hello.”

Monteverde's Angel

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you,

That I almost believe that they’re real.

I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you,

That I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel.

                                                                        – Robert James Smith

One love,



About H3nry J3kyll
Vincit omnia veritas (using an obscure Latin heraldry motto makes one seem kinda learned and distinguished).

2 Responses to The present need not be so tense.

  1. Jeff Nguyen says:

    I apologize for not leaving a comment when I liked this. I agree that art and the arts is an important component of a holistic education. This area is being grossly overlooked in American education “reform” as it exists at this time. Nice Cure quote but the image reminded me of the Weeping Angels from Dr. Who which still give me the willies. Thanks for sharing this well written and informative essay.

  2. Henry Jekyll says:

    Thank you for the comment. Had to google the Weeping Angels but I must agree, very unsettling.

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