This pure present moment. This moment between the one just passed and the one immediately to come. Everything that has ever happened has happened in this moment. In this moment. By necessity it is the only time anything can happen. The past is something that has happened. The future is something that might happen. Things do not happen in the past or in the future. Things happen only in the now, right now.
I sit at a wooden table under the thatched roof of an abandoned taco stand. The vacant stand rests on the beach near my hotel room. I watch the waves roll in. My two days on the beach prompted new wonderings on the waves. Long I've felt their hypnotism, their mystery. But today suddenly, on the bus back from Escuinapa, I could not stop thinking about them. Suddenly they seemed to me just the right analogy for this idea, for this idea of the eternal now.
To refer to past and future is to refer to the sun's rise and set. From our limited perspective on our small rotating planet the sun seems to rise. But the sun does not rise. The sun stands still. It is the earth that turns toward it. Similarly, from the limited perspective of our brief lives time seems to pass. But time does not pass. Time stands still. It is we that pass through it. We document our passage. Collectively we remember our passage. From our documentation and memory we give ourselves a false perspective: We create the illusion of time passing, just as in watching the sun creep over the horizon we observe the illusion of its movement around the earth. History did not happen in the past. It happened in the now. To say that it happened in the past is merely to employ the convenience of our flawed perspective. The sun does not move around the earth. The earth spins toward the sun. Time does not pass. We pass through time. Why do the waves remind me of this?
At one point the grizzled old man offered, "We're studying the sea, eh?" And I agreed. But his shoes were too fresh to have hoofed the hundreds of miles from Los Mochis that he claimed. And his tattered clothing made his talk of being robbed of a million and a half pesos hard to believe. After a long silence, one through which I volunteered nothing, one through which I still managed to pay attention to the old man, he spoke.
"Continue then studying, güerito," he said finally. He said it with a quiet smile. "I will move on now."
"Fine, grandfather," I answered him. "Luck to you."
We shook hands warmly.
I gave him not a peso.
All of time in a single moment. And a wave rolls in. All of time in this moment. And another wave rolls in. How do these relate to one another? Maybe it is the illusion that each of those waves is a different wave that draws me to this analogy. Maybe it's this flaw of observation. For when I observe the waves, when I watch them one at a time, come single file toward the shore and then swell and then crash near the beach I recognize them as separate from one another, as distinct. They have different qualities, different characteristics. But while this, in appearance, may be true, in essence it is not. After a wave crashes near the beach it's substance does not just disappear, the water that made up that wave does not just evaporate. Quite the opposite, in fact. That wave's water is washed back into the surf. That wave's water becomes the makings of the following wave, the next wave. The substance of the first wave, then, becomes the substance of the second wave. In this way the two waves are the same. And we can take this relationship still further. For that second wave assumes the first wave's substance because the energy of that first wave still animates the second wave. The energy of that first wave has not yet fully expressed itself. So the energy draws the substance of the first wave into a second wave and then further expresses itself. And then the energy does this again with the substance of the second wave in a third wave. And then again with the substance of the third wave in a fourth, and so on. So when I watch those waves breaking I am watching one continuous unbroken stream of energy expressing itself in wave after wave. And I am watching, too, that energy take on, assume, reuse, over and over again, the same substance. The waves appear to me separate and distinct. But they are just different expressions of the same energy, different configurations of the same substance. Every wave, in a way, is the same wave. This must be what draws me to the waves, to the sea, how it hypnotizes me. I look at the waves. I watch the waves roll in, and I subconsciously see the eternal moment, the eternal now. For just as every wave is the same wave, even though it seems to me otherwise, every moment is the same moment, even though it seems to me otherwise. The differences I observe between moments are just different expressions of the same energy, different configurations of the same substance.
A fist fight just broke out on the beach. Two skinny guys attacked a fat guy. Pretty serious. Both skinny guys were trying to use big rocks as bludgeons. The rocks were too unwieldy though and they dropped them, repairing to their more agile knuckles. The skinny guys were definitely the aggressors and were very intent upon hurting the other. Two lifeguards appeared, however, and then a policeman, and then a policeman with a shotgun. There's always a policeman with a shotgun around. The three pugilists were handcuffed and towed away. I, four sunburning tourists, and a half dozen others walking along the seawall witnessed the dispute. Out of nowhere it erupted. It called to mind a fight between two school kids I witnessed in a Wichita park. I was sitting at a picnic table there, trying to read Atlas Shrugged, trying to define my anti-fear ideas. Both fights, I watched, wondering if I should intervene. Had they started bashing the fat guy's head with the rocks I might have intervened. Or if they'd tried to drown him. Otherwise it's their affair, I think.
People hurry through exhibits of old masters, or spend five distracted minutes before forty-five minute sunsets because they live more in the moment to come than in the moment that is.
To live in the moment to come is to live a life that might be, never a life that is.
Life is in this moment. The energy of life, the substance of life is in this very moment. It can only be in this very moment.
Life anticipated is life deferred.
Escuinapa was of compressed earth drying under a broiling sun. And dust was rising, kiln dry, a dusty breeze-- the breeze unmoving in a dusty heat; the dust subtly invading my nostrils and throat; the dust subtly softening the sharp edges of the church spire, the brittleness of the silvergreen trees, the awkward postures of so many parabolic T.V. antennae. And feel that thin film of sweat across my flesh. The slightest exertion brought it to bead, the beads to rivulets.
The climate of Mazatlán is moderated enough by the ocean that you do not realize how precariously near the city stands to the desert. A short daytrip north from Mazatlán though, to Escuinapa, and you see. I expected this. For this reason I am here in March. But already it is quite hot. Tomorrow I continue on from Mazatlán. Tomorrow I continue on into that desert.
Here then, I guess, is my definition of life. It is the eternal moment, this eternal now, its energy and substance.