Jun 17, 2016 More on the power of the moment
One day in 1990, walking back to my then-corporate law firm from lunch, a graying hippie messenger driver in a big old purple Cadillac gazed briefly at me as I gazed at his California plates reading AMOMENT. Like most days at work, this was a very busy day, and that reminder to pause was a welcome one.
Not long after seeing the AMOMENT license plate — while returning from the the now long-closed Siddartha vegetarian restaurant — I returned to that restaurant for a monthly lunch gathering of the local vegetarian society, where member Howard Lerner brought up Ram Dass, about whom I knew little, but who became one of my key teachers. Ram Dass wrote Be Here Now, which is all about living in the moment. I finally read the book in 2003 soon after I met Ram Dass for the first and only time, at the Lisner Auditorium.
Six years later, I met my late close friend Trudy Morse, who emphasized the necessity of living in the moment. In her poem “We Met At the Crossroads”, Trudy wrote: “We touch each other, For a moment. We feel each other, It is a tender touch. We love each other, For the moment.”
From a near-death experience a few decades ago, Trudy “learned that life is so fragile, I would try to enjoy every moment of life…”
By the time I visited Japan on business in 1986, I was slowly drawing myself towards living a non-dualistic life in the moment. Around 1993, I was mesmerized by Wim Wenders’s Tokyo-Ga (see the trailer), which Wenders developed in trying to retrace the steps of director Yasujiro Ozu, who died painfully, when I was eight months old, on his sixtieth birthday in 1963 of cancer.
In 2008 after. having travelled to Japan a second time a few years before, I revisited Tokyo-Ga, particularly, the part about Wenders’s finding Ozu’s tombstone in the temple of Engaku in Kita-Kamakura. Ozu’s tombstone bears the solitary inscription ‘mu’ from the monk’s painting that he had kept all his life.
One translation for mu (“mu” in Japanese and Korean, and wu in Chinese”) is nothingness. Once I learned about mu, I started learning about the related concepts of non-duality/non-attachment and interconnectedness.
In Hagakure, the book of the Samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo repeatedly discusses the power of the moment, including:
– “There is nothing outside the thought of the immediate moment.”
– “A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.”
– “Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction. Other than continuing to exert yourself, enter into nothing else, but go to the extent of living single thought by single thought.”
Here are two additional thoughts I have previously relayed about warriors and the moment:
– Is being in the present overrated? Probably the opposite. The present moment is the only moment we have. It is a precious moment that will never return. The samurai who thinks about his or her next move rather than being present in the battle will have his or her head lopped off, which is not the right antidote against dwelling on the future.
“A Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. That night he was unable to sleep because he feared that the next day he would be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his Zen master came to him, ‘Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now.’ Heeding these words, the warrior became peaceful and fell asleep.”