Almost every week since March, I get to Wednesday or Thursday and I think, “Where did the week go?” mostly because I haven’t been able to remember what day it was unless I have a meeting or a deadline. The present tense feels endless.
I’ve spent a good deal of my life learning how to live in the moment; like the song from RENT goes, “No day but today.” To live in the moment means the way the old gnarly tree seems to smile, or the stage lighting of the sunrise as it paints the church steeple a sacred orange as Lila and I take our morning walk. It means taking note of the way the crack in the sidewalk bends like a lifeline across the palm of a human hand, or the small girl whose stripes change direction on every layer of clothing as she dons her rainbow unicorn helmet and confidently scoots away.
But part of the reasons moments matter, I am learning, is because they move from one to the next. They come and they go. They are exquisite because they are not eternal. Or, perhaps better put, they are eternal–transcendent–but they are not unending.
What traps us in these days of isolation is an unending present that something other than a moment. It is inertia. Ennui. It’s not only that Tuesday afternoon won’t end, it’s that there is nothing to make it Tuesday. Today might as well be March 256th instead of December 15. Time is standing still and disappearing at the same time. That is not the stuff memories are made of.
We need endings. We need closing scenes that move us from one moment to the next, from before to after. We need episodes, even seasons. We need for the credits to roll. We need to know that Tuesday matters. We need to make memories and that requires more than an endless present.
I should clarify: I’m not talking about death. We have had too many of those endings because of this virus, and COVID has kept us from being able to mark those endings well because we cannot gather as we normally would. But we’ve got to do more than survive. We need to exist–“to have actual being.” Part of that, at least for me, is figuring out how to go out and end something, which is part of what it takes to create a memory.
I guess that also means going out to start something that is worth bringing to a close.
As I know I have said many times, one of the ways to think about the word remember is that it means to re-member, as in putting ourselves back together again. A moment has significance, even movement. Momentum comes from the same root. When we relish the moment and then let it be over, we do more than pass the time. We connect. We create. We come to life.
To live in the moment means to go out and end something. Let it be over, but only after you have created a memory, even it it’s just following the crack in the sidewalk.