Long long ago, in my 30s, I had read a Zen Koan. It was about a Zen monk who is running, to avoid being eaten by an angry tiger, pursuing him. As he rushes to save his life, he falls into a precipice, a deep gorge into which the monk will fall to certain death. Desperately, the monk reaches out and grabs a shrub growing on the rock surface. Temporarily it arrests his fall. He is hanging onto the shrub, looking down on a sheer fall of hundreds of meters, considering his imminent death. Just then he sees a ripe berry on one of the branches of the shrub. He plucks it and eats the berry. And then says: “wow, that berry is so sweet”.
Story over. The end. For years & years, it left me wondering : what was the import of that story? Till a time when I grew wiser (??; arguable, I can already sense my friends sniggering) and understood that the Monk epitomised living in the present. Being in the here and now. And enjoying what you can, when you can. One of the most influential philosophers of the modern day, Eckhart Tolle has penned a whole book “The Power of Now” to celebrate living in the present. Tolle says “You cannot be both unhappy and fully present in the Now”. If you live with your whole heart and being in the Here & Now/the Present, then you understand the nonchalance of the Monk as he stares at imminent death and still enjoys the juiciness of the berry. Naturally he says ” that berry is so sweet”. In his death, he teaches us to live Now.
Truly we should understand that we must enjoy Life Now. This is not a rehearsal!!! we pass this way but once and get only this chance to play the game right. So why mope and tarry? Play boldly. Experiment. Whatever happens, trust that it happens for the right reasons. So do not fight the consequences. Learn to enjoy all outcomes. Napoleon Hill, the famous author puts it well, “Don’t wait. The time will never be right !” The present FIFA matches we all are seeing shows this courage on every striker’s face. When you have executed your play and gone forward, and have reached striking distance: now you must take your shot. The opposing Goalie will try to stop: but the sheer energy and enthusiasm that erupts in the entire stadium is all egging you on to take your shot. The time is Now!!
This is not new wisdom. Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor 161-180 CE, best known for his Meditations on Stoic Philosophy, exhorted us back then “Confine yourself to the present”. One of my favorite English Romantic poets John Keats puts it graphically, “Now (is) a soft kiss – Aye, by that kiss, I vow endless bliss”. That was in the 18th century. Closer to date, Osho observed, “Now is the only reality. All else is either memory or imagination”. Despite all this good advice, we tend to live everywhere but in the present. We bargain away today, living continuously in the past memories. Successes of the past make us happy; but we continuously relive all our past miseries. Yet a car cannot be driven by looking only at the rear view mirror!!! New and vibrant reality is constantly unfolding ahead of us. We need to understand this reality and act in the present.
The other mind game we play is living in imagining the future. Had read somewhere that Tomorrow is a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored. Consciously and deterministically we must withdraw from the mystical future: focus our attention & act in the present. Results are intricately tied to the present. It is said that there are only 2 times in life: Now. Or too late.
History is replete with examples where companies (and the individuals therein) did not capitalise on their innovations and discoveries in time and left it, till it was too late! Most famous example is digital photography : Kodak owned the patent but kept it away as executives thought it would affect their photographic film business. Affect it did, as Sony and Fuji walked away with the entire business, forcing Kodak to shut down!! Motorola stuck too long to its traditional cellphone designs and did not leverage its Razr brand or couple it with a smartphone, until the Motorola brand itself was run into the ground!!! Another example is of DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) . While IBM dominated the mainframe computer business, DEC emerged as the “owner” of the minicomputer space from 1960s to the 1990s. In 1993 its rank was 27 amongst the Fortune 500 companies!!! But it lost out totally by not entering the workstation and personal computers business quickly enough. This is what has given rise to the famous epithet: The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now!!
Consider the phrase: “Life is nowhere”. How did you read this? Life is no where? Or…Life is now here. Success obviously belongs to those who realise Life is NOW HERE. All our actions and reactions have to be tempered in the present. And we will reap the benefits also in the Now. As James Joyce has noted: “Hold on to the now, the here, through which all future plunges into the past”. What beautiful clarity!
Let me end with another favorite Zen story. This is about a very beautiful lady monk, who was in a Monastery. Despite following her vows seriously, a male monk developed a one-sided romantic interest in her. He started keeping messages for her hidden at places, where she would find them. Naturally, she was disturbed and did not know how to stop this. One evening, when all the monastery monks had assembled for the evening prayers, she stood up in the middle of the gathering of monks; and said “You who love me and keep sending love notes surreptitiously, if you truly love me & want me, stand up now. Come and embrace me in front of this assembly”. When shocked silence followed and no one moved, she again said ” If you cannot profess your love NOW and HERE, do not bother me again”.
The time, friends, is NOW!! Do not tarry. Do not postpone. Remember, Tyrion Lannister’s revelation in the Game of Thrones, “You are in the Great Game now. And the Great Game is terrifying”. All the best in your battles.
NOW…for ever…Now: vikas