Into the future

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.

– Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment


It’s January 1, 2014.

Last night’s countdown has me thinking about the ultimate countdown.

According to the Federal Government’s Life Expectancy Calculator, I have 33.4 years left on this planet, but that doesn’t factor in family history (big negative), health history (mixed bag, that), lifestyle (pretty good right now, but all those years of smoking…).

After playing around with a few more calculators, it turns out that current lifestyle seems to weigh heavily into the forecast. According to the more detailed calculators I tried, I’m looking at about 40 more years. Yikes. I could conceivably be here to toast in 2054, when my older daughter will be over 60! Hard to imagine what the world will be like by then. Will I still be shuffling around, under my own steam? Or living in a crazy mixed up state? (By which I mean, worse than I currently am!)

The bigger question: How many active, mentally-with-it years do I have left? None of the calculators I tried factored in dementia in near relatives, or the death ages of parents. None of the calculators predict quality of life.

Perhaps spiritual author Eckhart Tolle has it right—quit thinking about the future, live in the now.

Tolle says that the future is just a mental construction. This moment is all we really have. I agree to a point, but have trouble (clearly!) sticking to the now in practice.

If I don’t cultivate mindfulness, one of these days I might cross Clifton Avenue, distracted, thinking about what the world will be like in 2054, wondering how much will change during my theoretical lifespan. If I’m not careful, I might wander into a busy intersection pondering whether the rain forests will be gone entirely, if the oceans will be a cesspool of toxins, if the divisions between rich and poor will have balanced out, or grown cruelly sharper. Lost in the future, I won’t see the bus of NOW bearing down on me.

I imagine time stretching out like warm taffy in the second I snap into the moment, realizing it is my last. Perhaps in that moment, the secrets of the universe will become plain. Or maybe there are no secrets? Maybe Eckhart has it right. Maybe I need to learn how to be present, how to stop myself from jetting into the future or sinking into the past.

I’ll worry about that—later.