Looking out my windshield at white puffy clouds, contrasted by a wide expansive blue sky as I made my way north on Highway 81 in Kansas yesterday, I considered something Alan Alda said in an iTunes “Meet the Author” podcast I was listening to.
He was talking about the power of now, in the context of his search for meaning. First he made reference to something Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote: “All we have is the present moment.” He connected that with something a neuroscientist told him recently: “Our experience of now only last about five seconds. We’re in now for just that long. And everything before that is a memory.”
Alda’s goal is to keep up with the now because he sees colors and hears sounds he wouldn’t otherwise notice. He sees multiple colors in a person’s face when he’s in the now – hints of blues, greens and browns. Presumably, he doesn’t just hear a conversational buzz when he’s in the now, but instead he hears every word, every syllable, every tone inflection.
For him, being fully present is the closest he believes he can come to finding meaning. While I disagree with his conclusion – I draw meaning from living for God, glorifying Him and enjoying his presence – Alda is on to something, especially in our present age in which it is common to see friends gathered around a table at Applebee’s, all of whom have their heads down texting other friends.
I tend to live two hours from now, or one day from now, thinking about everything I need to do, and I miss the leaves swirling toward the ground in my front yard. I miss two squirrels chasing each other. I miss the brief look of loneliness on a friend’s face.
The fifth chapter of Ephesians has been on my mind a lot lately. I may write more about that later, but in part, the apostle Paul said: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV). Some translations say “redeeming the time” rather than “making the best use of the time.”
The overall consensus regarding the meaning of this passage is, we should be more diligent about works directly related to the kingdom. I see the truth in that. But Matthew Henry goes a little deeper in his comments about this passage:
“It is a great part of Christian wisdom to redeem the time. Good Christians must be good husbands of their time, and take care to improve it to the best of purposes, by watching against temptations, by doing good while it is in the power of their hands, and by filling it up with proper employment – one special preservative from sin. They should make the best use they can of the present seasons of grace. Our time is a talent given us by God for some good end, and it is misspent and lost when it is not employed according to his design.”
I love this notion of making the best use of our time because our time is a season of grace. The five minutes you took to read this post was a season of grace, or five mini-seasons of grace. Being present in the now is so much better than being lost in the cares and concerns of tomorrow.
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.