We develop a kind of chronic anxiety about time. We want to be sure more and more, because of our sensitivity to the theme of time. We want to be sure more and more that our future is assured. And for this reason the future becomes of more importance to most human beings than the present. And in this sense we are hooked, taken in, by a māyā, because it is of very little use to us to be able to control and plan the future unless we are capable at the same time of living totally in the present.
My goodness, don’t you remember when you went first to school, and you went to kindergarten? And in kindergarten the idea was to push along so that you could get into first grade, and then push along so that you can get into second grade, third grade, and so on, going up and up. And then you went to high school, and this is a great transition in life. And now the pressure is being put on: you must get ahead. You must go up the grades and finally be good enough to get to college. And then, when you get to college, you’re still going step by step, step by step, up to the great moment in which you’re ready to go out into “the world.” And then, when you get out into this famous world, comes the struggle for success in profession or business. And again there seems to be a ladder before you; something for which you’re reaching all the time. And then, suddenly, when you’re about 40 or 45 years old in the middle of life, you wake up one day and say, “Huh, I’ve arrived. And by Jove, I feel pretty much the same as I’ve always felt. In fact, I’m not so sure that I don’t feel a little bit cheated.” Because, you see, you were fooled. You were always living for somewhere where you aren’t. And while, as I said, it is of tremendous use for us to be able to look ahead in this way and to plan, there is no use planning for the future which—when you get to it and it becomes a present—you won’t be there! You’ll be living in some other future which hasn’t yet arrived. And so, in this way, one is never able actually to inherit and enjoy the fruits of one’s actions. You can’t live at all unless you can live fully now.
Have you ever stopped to think what the world would be like if you could fulfill every wish the moment you wished it? Suppose, for example, on going to bed at night, you could always dream whatever you wanted to dream. What would happen after a while? Of course, I suppose, at first you would dream fantastic pleasures, wonderful adventures, fulfillment of all the things you ever wished. But then, as time went on, don’t you think you’d want to be… oh… a little bit surprised? To have a little bit less control over what was happening to you? And after you’d experimented with this for some months or years, you might even want dreams in which you suffer. Because there is no real delight, no real fulfillment, without delay.
We forget that speed is only of real advantage to you if you’re the only person who has it. Then you can get ahead of other people. But the minute everybody else catches up with you, you’re all back where you were, only going much faster and much more nervously; going, as it were, faster and faster to less and less desirable objectives. We hurry everything we do: we make our products, our houses, our furniture, our clothes so that they become obsolete quickly. We’re in such a hurry to get everything done. We pay attention to the front rather than the back.
In this day and age we don’t have time for it because we’re always in a hurry to get things finished, and so the things that we finish weren’t worth finishing because they were done so fast.
The enjoyment of our world is not really unlike listening to music. We don’t play music in order to get somewhere. I mean, if the objective of music were to arrive at a point—say, the last bar, the final great crashing chords of the symphony—well, then all we’d do, we’d be just: “Hurry up, it’s playing!” Play it as fast as possible so as to get to the culmination, the end, as soon as possible—or just cut out the whole symphony and play only the last bars. To be able to enjoy it we have got to live each moment of the playing, and listen to it as if it were the only thing important to listen to. And then, if we do that, our time has an entirely different quality.