"Ask yourself if you're happy and you cease to be so"
~Don't know who said it
I've often heard people say that you need to live in the moment to get the most out of life. Maybe that's true but I have no clue what it means. Whenever I think of anyone living in the moment, I think of them stopping what they're doing so they can really think about whatever event they happen to be in the midst of. Ok... so how does this enhance the experience?
I've also heard people talk about how we need to not always keep looking forward to the next big thing in our life. When we're in high school we look forward to college, when we're in college we look forward to getting our dream job. When we're done with college we look forward to marriage, when we're married we want kids, when we have kids we want them out of the house. And so, supposedly, because of this mindset we miss out on everything.
I see people apply this warning to the Christian life too. They say not to look forward to heaven so much but to enjoy heaven right now as we bring it to earth. Ok, maybe sayings like this have some merit... Jesus talked about God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven, but there's something about the way they say it that seems so impractical to me.
I remember reading "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton once. There was a part in the book where he talks about the nature of living in times of happiness. I don't feel like scanning through the whole book so I can quote him word for word, so I'll summarize. He talks about how when we try to focus on the moment and realize that it's finite, we actually ruin it. The reason that we enjoy our moments of happiness in this life is because there's a part of us inside that assumes our joy will be eternal. That's the nature of joy. When we experience the joy of the Lord in any moment of our lives, we lose our sense of things being so finite.
It kind of reminds me of a Jack Johnson song that I was listening to at work today where he sings, "We used to laugh a lot, but only because we thought that everything good always would remain." So how exactly does ignoring our future dreams in order to see the finiteness of the moment help enhance our times of joy? It seems to me that as we press on towards our goals, that is the very thing that makes our present times joyous. We enjoy college because we know what we want school to do for our future. We live this life for God OUT OF our hope for heaven. That's what brings heaven to earth. It seems to me that it's really only in hindsight that we realize how good our experiences have been.
I've noticed this when I've hung out with certain people. We tend to be having a great time, but then someone decides to speak up and tell everyone to stop where they are. "Ok guys, lets just take this moment... do you realize that we're never going to experience this moment again? We're gonna look back on this later and it's gonna be a great memory." Some people might find this nice... but for me it seems to take away from the experience itself. Part of me just wants to say, "C'mon man! Lets leave the remembering part for when out fun is actually over!"
I guess the saying is true... ask yourself if you're happy and you cease to be so. Happy isn't something you notice about yourself, it's something you just are. When it ends, you look back on it and are sad it's over... but then you look forward to the next time. Before you know it, you're in a time of joy yet again and the simple fact that you haven't realized the time has come is what makes it real.
Live in the moment? I'm not so sure. Without a vision of the future we don't even know what the moment should look like. Without a hope of heaven, how can we know whether heaven has come to earth? If we're always focusing on the finite nature of our school, our marriage, or our kids, how can we really live in their eternal quality?
Just some food for thought...