I remember reading a children’s story long ago about a very active kid who is told by his kindergarten teacher, “Just sit here, for the present,” and who then sits there for hours refusing to go outside for recess. When the teacher asks him why he won’t go out he replies, “I’m waiting for the present.” What characterizes how we live? Do we live in the present, or do we run from it?
I have been to Hawaiʻi now five times, for two weeks on each trip. Moving to Hawaiʻi in June of 2019 has become a target for which I am aiming. My love of Hawaiʻi and my desire to be there is so great that the strength of it has caused me to ponder the healthiness of it and whether or not that desire interferes with my living in the present.
Living in the present should not be a prison sentence, something to which we are condemned. Modern life has manifold pressures and stresses and one needs to release that pressure from time to time. Short-term and healthy ways of dealing with modern pressures are by going to a party, going on a vacation, putting down the work and going for a walk or reading a book, having an occasional few drinks. But just as most things have two sides to them, so too does release from the present. Unhealthy ways of dealing with the present are addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping… maybe even traveling. But at the heart of addiction is the desire to permanently flee from something: a memory, a fear, or even reality itself.
The terrible thing about addictive choices is that we are choosing to escape reality by slipping into being oblivious of everything… to slip into oblivion. But we should be careful what we wish for! If the flavor of our living has been to avoid dealing with reality, what then will we do when we are thrust into eternity, a reality from which escape is not an option? My desire for Hawaiʻi is not a desire to flee something in the present.
I am where God has placed me right now and I happily attend to the duties incumbent upon me as a Pastor, as a Priest and as a monk. I am keenly aware that I will not be happy in Hawaiʻi if I am not happy now. We teach ourselves to be happy by looking for the bits of happiness possible right whereever we are. When we know how to be happy where we are, we will know how to be happy wherever we might be in the future. It all seems to boil down to: How do we deal with the present? Do we run from it or do we “wait for the present”?