Looking Into The Abyss




Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.
Hal Holbrook


When I read this post the other day I was struck by the title “To Be Human Is to Be Stuck Wandering for a Moment between Two Abysses.” http://bigthink.com/rightly-understood/big-thought-to-be-human-is-to-be-stuck-wandering-for-a-moment-between-two-abysses?utm_source=Big+Think+Weekly+Newsletter+Subscribers&utm_campaign=fa4ac487ec-Wed_10_24_Geek_Humanities10_24_2012&utm_medium=email

This post from Peter Lawler hit home for me as I felt like I was not exactly stuck between two abysses but stuck in the abyss. The following quote by Blaise Pascal included in the post also gave me pause to think. “Everyone should study their thoughts. They will find them all centered on the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do it is simply to shed some light on the future. The present is never our end. Past and present are our means, only the future is our end. And so we never actually live, though we hope to, and in constantly striving for happiness it is inevitable that we will never achieve it.”

Trying to get back to a more positive place, I recalled a book I had read quite some time ago, The Present; by Spencer Johnson (he also authored Who Moved My Cheese?). While the title of the aforementioned post with the reference to an Abyss is what caught my eye, rereading excerpts from The Present is what helped me put my last few weeks into a better perspective.

It was good to be reminded that when we continually look back at the way things used to be we fail to take pleasure in the way things are today. I am not suggesting that we completely forget about the past, but instead learn what lessons we can from what has happened, vow to not make the same mistakes while continuing to do what succeeded, and then let the past stay behind us.  I know this can seem difficult, but if we lament too often or too long on the way things used to be we fail to get the pleasure we should from the way that things are today.

For me it is not so much that I dwell on the past, but rather that I spend so much time planning and worrying about what the future will bring that today seems to slip away unnoticed and underappreciated.  This, I think, is the source of much of my frustration.

As is often the case, when I picked my book back up and read again the thoughts the old man offered, “Only two things can rob you of the joy of The Present; your negative thoughts about The Past, or your negative thoughts about The Future.”  For me there was a lot of power in this tiny excerpt that helped me be more grounded in what I needed to do today.  If you only have time to read a few pages, I would recommend that you start on page 76 and read through to page 103.  You will find that you might return to your day more engaged and happy to live in the present.

With your reading outline for you above, I’ll leave you with one last thought from The Present. “Success is becoming who you are capable of being and progressing toward worthwhile goals. Each of us defines for ourselves what it means to be more successful.”

That to me is The Present.


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