The last ten years I kept up a pretty rigorous press embargo. The only exception I made was an annual philosophical essay in the edge.org group founded by John Brockman in NYC. They were published in the last nine anthologies.
The new Edge Question for 2014 was just published.
I should put up a few “director’s cut” original versions, here is one for starters.
They begin with an annual question posed to the group of scientists, thinkers and artists.
What do you believe in,
even though you cannot prove it ?
To answer that I wrote a rather serious essay, but it is wrapped in a lighthearted language twist: using the concept of “Zen” and connecting it with the time metaphor “Then”.
It may sound like mere word play, but underlying that is a conundrum that has interested me for a long time - the continuity of time, and sometimes the opposite - years flying by like …so many flying things.
Of course I did not mean to denigrate Zen or any religious or other belief structure, it was merely the trigger to weave a little meandering path around these notions of time and our subjective place in it.
I always felt, but can't prove outright…
Zen is wrong.
Then is right.
Everything is not about the Now,
as in the ‘here and now‘ or ‘living for the moment’
On the contrary: I believe everything is about
the before then
the back then.
It is about the anticipation of the moment
and the memory of the moment,
…but not the moment.
In German there is a beautiful little word for it: ‘Vorfreude’
It still is a shade different from ‘delight’ or "pleasure" or even ‘anticipation’.
It is the ‘Pre-Delight’, the ‘Before-Joy’,
or as a little linguistic transliterated concoction: the "ForeFun"; (Fore = Vor, Fun = Freude)
In a single word that is trying to express the relationship of time:
the pleasure of waiting for the moment to arrive,
the ‘can't wait’ moments of elation,
of hoping for some thing, some one, some event to happen.
Whether it's on a small scale:
like that special taste of your favorite food, waiting to see a loved one,
that one moment in a wonderful song, or the key sequence in a movie.…
or the larger versions :
the expectation of a beautiful vacation, moving to a new place,
your acceptance speech at the Oscars... ; ) or the birth of a baby,
We have been told by wise men, Dalais and Maharishis, that life is supposedly all about those moments themselves, that we are to cherish the second it happens and should not concern ourselves with the continuance of time… Live for the Now they will say.
But for me, already in childhood days, I realized somehow:
the beauty lies in the time before,
the hope for, the waiting for,
the imaginary picture painted in perfection
of that instant in time.
And then, once it passes, in the blink of an eye,
it will be the memory which really stays with you,
the reflection, the remembrance of that time.
‘Cherish the thought’...,
‘remember how we used to’....
Nothing ever IS as beautiful as these abstractions we make
through the rose-colored glasses of anticipation...:
The toddlers hope for that miraculously wonderful ‘Santa Claus on Christmas eve’
turns out to be … just a fat guy with a fashion issue.
Waiting for the first kiss can give you waves of emotional shivers up your spine,
but when it then actually happens,
…it's a bunch of molecules colliding, a bit of a mess, really.
It is not the 'real moment' that matters.
the moment will be glorified by innocence,
not knowing yet.
the moment will be sanctified by memory filters,
not knowing any more.
In the Zen version:
trying to uphold "the beauty of the moment - in that very moment"
is in my eyes a sad undertaking.
Not so much because it couldn't be done...
surely it can: all manner of techniques have been put forth on
‘how to be a happy human’ by mastering the art of that.
But it also implies, by definition, that all those other moments
live just as much magnified under that spotlight:
the mundane, the lame, the gross,
and worse: the everyday routines of dealing with life's mere mechanics.
Inevitably one is forced to uphold the un-beauty of the majority of moments.
In the Then version:
it is quite the opposite: the long phases before and after are what counts.
They last hundreds or thousands of times longer than the moment itself,
and done properly they will drown out the everyday humdrum to a necessary minimum.
spend your life in the eternal bliss of always having something to hope for,
something to wait for,
plans not realized,
dreams not come true....
Make sure you have new points on the horizon,
that you purposely create.
And at the same time relive your memories,
uphold and cherish them,
keep them alive and share them,
talk about them (even if just to yourself if need be)
In other words, the Executive Summary :
I have no way of proving such a lofty philosophical theory,
but I greatly anticipate the moment that I might...
and once I have done it,
I will, most certainly,