Monday, December 13, 2010


Today I was helping a young man organize his legal research. He initially seemed an unlikely candidate: heavily inked, nervous affect, blunt and taciturn. He displayed all the classic signs of a tweaker who had been up for several days. He was, however, polite and appropriate with me, and as his story slowly unfolded he found his way into increasingly heavy legal materials.

He sat at a large table in the reading room and spent several hours in the material, and occasionally would ask me for another reference. Finally he asked for a dictionary. And then came up to me, confounded because he could not find a particular word. A really basic, non-legal word. The word was one ending in –ed. I found the primary word for him, which he had identified and explained that the word he was studying was the past tense of the primary word. He looked puzzled. I pointed at the word in the dictionary. ‘This is the present tense word’ I explained. ‘The word in the book you are studying is written in the past tense’. He looked up at me, still puzzled. ‘Present tense? Is that, like, the now?’ he asked. Yes, I assured him, and explained how the definition showed the various tense forms for the word.

I went back to my work marveling at how a young man, presumably educated in our society, could not know what the present tense and past tense of a pretty basic word was. And then it struck me how this was a metaphor for how many of us live. We don’t know how to distinguish the present from the past.

We dwell in past anguish; in memories, guilt, delusion, or pain. We dwell in denial, or we hold on to attitudes or thought patterns that no longer serve us, or have any use for us. In other words, we don’t let go.

And this is so silly and unproductive. Because all we have is the present. The past is beyond us, and the future not yet in grasp. All we have is this moment; this very second of our existence. And in this present moment we have the ability to create our reality and affect not only the future, but also the past.

The quantum physicists assure us that thoughts become things, and can alter the very DNA of our being. These concepts, well-known millennia ago and then forgotten, are now being proven in laboratories all over the world. What we do in the present matters. It’s our workbench. It’s the place from which we design our life, and our very world.

The past is history; the future is mystery. This moment is a gift. That is why it is called The Present.

So take this moment; this gift, and look at it. See the beauty you have within you. See the beauty in every moment and regard the treasures in the every day things. Don’t confuse the present with the past. The past is gone. Right now is the treasure. Don’t let it slip away from you. Use it well.