Glass is a liquid. I can’t see it, but the pane is sagging under the weight of gravity ever so slightly. In a few hundred years it’ll be pudgy at the midsection—if the library surrounding it lasts that long. From my chair, all I see is a transparent wall separating me from Adams Park. I view the world like it’s trapped in an aquarium. Or am I in the aquarium? A magazine lies spread on my lap, but for this moment I’m in my head again. I can almost lose myself, eyes focused on what’s outside—trees and sidewalks and streets interlocked—as if this moment were all there is. I am just sun-warmth and breath, like a pie cooling on a windowsill.
I’ve just read in an article from The Atlantic on how lonely we’ve become: the Facebook generation. But I’m not lonely. I’m just alone. A fish in an aquarium above the street. The room I’m in is a shrine to reading. Some study, some read, some simply stare with an unnerving focus that wipes expression from their faces. I wonder about their stories. Why, like me, have they chosen to cool next to the window overlooking the sidewalk below?
I’ve put my cellphone away, so time isn’t passing. Time flows, but just like with the glass, I can’t tell. Not when everything around me moves so slowly. Not without ticking clocks or anxious thoughts or rushing people. It seems to just stand still—a moment, a photograph, a single frame.
This is where I dwell most comfortably, in this timeless state, so immersed that I’m not even aware I’m immersed. Does a fish know it swims? Like fish, we all float through this vast universe, unaware that gravity is working on us. We can’t see the strings. We can’t see the gears inside the watch. We can’t see the picture flickering at 24 frames per second. But it is.
We can try to pretend that this world spins more slowly than our minds, but it just keeps spinning. While we try to vivisect it, it keeps going. While we hold up a magnifying glass, it moves beneath us. While I try to explain what’s happening, it is. We must learn to live in the moment. It’s all we have. We do all of our living and learning and loving and losing in the moment. Memories are the archival footage you can’t change and the future is a London fog.
How many hours have I spent robbing the present so I could pay for a glance forwards or backwards? We carry the past with us, there’s no need to backtrack. And trying to gaze into the future only makes us dizzy with all of the unactualized possibilities. Dwelling in the present is an act of faith. It requires letting go—of the impulse to hang onto the past as well as the need to control the future. It’s simply living in the moment and trusting that God will not waste your past experiences, that he will reward your faithfulness in the present, and that he is orchestrating your future for the best. For this moment, that’s enough.