The Politics of Being Here Now
When my father died at the age of 80, my mother was devastated. For some 55 years he had been the center of her life. I remember her picking me up in the airport when I came home -- that is to say to the home where I once lived -- for the funeral. When I returned from that trip to my current home I wrote this poem.
In the poem I quote Ram Dass, and seem to contradict him. I am not sure that I do, actually. I think basically he was right. Perhaps my intent is just to qualify, or elaborate what he is saying. Mostly I just want to reflect on what the words might mean: Be Here Now. And put that in a political context.
What is it to Be?
Where is this Here?
When is this Now?
To begin with "Be," it means, well... ah... hmm. Nothing, it turns out is simple. But for my purposes maybe it is possible to cut through the Gordian knot of the history of western ontology -- at least for starters -- with a simple definition. By "being" I mean the lived experience of the consciousness that I I am. We can simply put in brackets for the moment whether this being that I am is or is not God, is an epiphenomenon of neural pathways, a transient thing or eternal, whether it ends at the boundary of my skin, etc. It includes the wonderment of these things -- like so:
I shall sing myself to sleep
When the day at last is spent,
Happy in the wonderment
Of what I'll lose and what I'll keep.
That seems to happen every day. Every moment, really. Perhaps every lifetime. I Am -- the thing I Be -- is the lived experience. All else is just wonderment.
So that's the "Be."
What about the "Here"?
in this chair that you can't see. (You just have to take my word for
it.) I am in this room. On this planet. In this country that is
presently such a horror. In this Ego. In this body. In God. I am told
that I should not be in my ego. Yet I could not fry eggs, get dressed
in the morning, plant a garden without my ego. Perhaps something else
is meant by the ego that must be "overcome." The notion that I
end at my skin? That I am important? That my existence in this realm
of duality is unreal? Well, yes and no. I do and I don't. I am and I
am not. It is and it is not. Perhaps it would be better to say that
the ego is not the only Here where one might be. Beyond this there is
the Self. And beyond that my oneness with Gaea. Etc.
But these are just maps of Here. I certainly have nothing against maps. When one wants to know where one is, maps are quite the thing. They can also show the way to other Heres. But it is clear that we should not mistake the map for the Here itself. Or for the There as far as that goes. The lived Here seems to be a many layered thing. It requires a very large and complicated map. Here be Islands, Here be mountains. Here be shifting plates leaving earthquakes and volcanoes in their wake. It not a map that will sit still. Here be mind and Here be matter. Here be dragons. Do not forget the dragons. Most modern maps are impoverished for their lack of dragons.
And what about the Now?
"Now" is never a self sufficient thing but is always finely sculpted by past hurts and future anticipations.
We find ourselves always now in the middle of a sentence the meaning of which was begun several words ago and is completed only by words not yet uttered.