The movie Boyhood, by Richard Linklater, which was 12 years in the making, shares a lot about the joys and struggles of life many of us experience in varying ways. Boyhood follows the growing up of a boy named Mason from age six to 18. At the end of the film the 18 year old Mason, now a freshman in college, sits chatting with a new girl he met at school. They’re looking out at the beauty of Big Bend National Park in Texas and the girl, one who clearly has a crush on Mason (and vice versa), says to Mason something profound.
Girl: You know how everyone’s always saying, “Seize the moment”? I don’t know why… I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around. You know, like, the moment seizes us.
Mason: Yeah… Yeah, I know. It’s constant. The moments… It’s just—It’s like it’s always right now, you know?
The spiritual author Eckhart Tolle says that our primary—or inner—purpose in life is to be, that is, simply to live in the present moment. He would agree that instead of seizing the moment, we should let the present moment seize us. In fact, being present shouldn’t involve any effort. Our secondary—or outer—purpose involves the future and planning and decision-making. Yet even all of that takes place in the now. We cannot escape the present moment.
Now God often speaks to us clearly when we look to the past and reflect on our experiences. We can also see God in the hope of the future. But perhaps the hardest place to find God is in the present moment, most probably because we tend to escape it. Allowing the moment to seize us means we find wonder in seemingly normal things like tying our shoes, pushing in a chair, or watching a car go by. It doesn’t have to be in a national park or on the edge of the ocean. If we allow ourselves to be fully conscious of what is going on right now, we may find a new kind of joy in the very moment of God’s creation. When Ignatius has his retreatants meditate on the Incarnation he has them first imagine the Trinity looking down on the world and everything going on in detail: births and deaths, crying and laughing, people working and relaxing, eating and feeling hunger, growing and learning… What the Trinity sees is creation at work, a wondrous rhythm of newness coming from a messy and flawed world.
God says through the prophet Isaiah, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already – you can see it now!” (Isaiah 43:18-19, GNT). The “creation of the moment” is the emergence of the various emotions within you, the beating of your heart, the insights gained from your surroundings, and even a deeper self-awareness. God lurks in each of these present moment events, as much as the past and the future. Letting the moment seize you means appreciating right now, not getting caught up with what’s yet to come. This is the only place you need to be right now.
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Music by Kevin MacLeod