J U L Y 2 0 1 9
I want to talk here about living in the zero-point-now and what the future and the past have to do with that, and right off I should warn you that I’m going to try to do this by using the narrative voice of a 17-year-old boy named Herman who’s the main character in a novel I’m reading, since his voice isn’t concerned with run-on sentences and he free-associates better than I do. If you get confused about who’s talking, me or Herman, just imagine it’s Herman, even though you know it’s me. Actually I was a 17-year-old boy once so it’s not such a stretch.
The thing I especially like about Herman is that his voice just hums along like this, and even when he doubts himself he does it in the same humming-along way and doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks, even if he says he does. Speaking of humming along, and to turn to our subject, isn’t that what the future does? I mean, here we all are in the zero-point-now, and instantly it turns into something else and keeps humming along, and yet all the while it stays the same: the zero-point. So how does “now” know what to do next? And where does “next” come from?
I used to think I was in charge of what comes next, or at least what should come next, and I’d get in a tangle talking to myself about what I liked and didn’t like and how things should be changed, and then I’d walk around being the person who had that attitude. I still do that more often than I care to admit, but I want to tell you I’ve found a fast way out of the tangle, and it’s easier than it sounds.
That’s it. I just say those words and they remind me to drop everything I’m talking to myself about and everything I’m complaining about or wishing was different, and I just step into the zero-point-now, which isn’t hard to find since it’s always where I left it. It’s right here where everything that’s about to happen starts, and when I’m here “in” the zero-point-now I don’t know what’s going to happen next but that’s perfectly fine. It’s like not knowing where the ping-pong ball is going to bounce on the table but playing it as best you can, which means letting the zero-point play it.
If I start talking to myself again and having an attitude about how things should be, the zero-point-now vanishes almost immediately and I fall back to being a person with an attitude and I get caught again in the tangle. But the good thing is, it doesn’t seem to matter how often this happens since the zero-point-now is always here to untangle things if I just remember what’s happening and say “zero-point-now,” and step into it. Well, it isn’t really “stepping” because I don’t actually move anywhere, but I think you know what I mean.
I once asked a writer friend of mine how he came up with what happens next in all the stories he writes. He told me, just imagine that you’re at the theater and a play is about to start. The house lights go dark, the curtain rises, a man in a scruffy suit enters stage right, looks over his shoulder and then says… Listen to what he says, my friend told me. Write it down and keep going — which I take to mean don’t try to make it up yourself, just be part of its appearing. The curtain rises, something happens, but there’s no need to claim it’s you dreaming it up. I can’t even claim it’s me who’s dreaming up the next words in this sentence — they just appear no matter how much I think it’s me doing it.
So where does what’s about to happen come from? The past? Does the past make the future? It certainly has something to do with it, otherwise there wouldn’t be any words to come next in this sentence. All these words are just echoes of earlier words, all the way back to when they were nothing but the grunts and coos of some old girls sitting around a fire cooking a rabbit in a long-ago forest. Now that I think of it, this pencil in my hand was made in the past by someone who’s doing something else now, and this chair I’m sitting on, and the cloth of my shirt. I have no idea who stitched my shirt together, this piece to this piece. It happened in the past, in someone else’s zero-point, but here it still is, wrapping around me in my own zero-point-now. That’s wild. All the zero-point-nows that have ever happened — the zero-points of the making of my shirt and the dreaming of the words and everything else — are a part of this zero-point-now!
Still, even though that’s true, it’s not the whole story. Something else is happening that isn’t just cause and effect — the past isn’t just pumping out the future. But however it works, it’s not something I can figure out and tell you about. It’s something magical. Spontaneous. All you can do is step into your zero-point-now and be part of its spontaneity and feel it for yourself. You’ll feel that everything that happens, spontaneously changes, while at the same time the zero-point-now spontaneously happens without changing, which is a way of saying the zero-point-now happens without happening.
One last thing — and maybe this is the most helpful thing about all this: the more I get to being in the zero-point-now, the more I seem to disappear. Try it yourself. It’s not scary, like being obliterated, but something for sure disappears. I step into the zero-point-now and poof! no more me with an attitude!
And then? All I can say is — I get happy! Everything seems fresh and clear as a bell. I feel free, wide open, at ease and ready for the ping-pong ball wherever it comes from. I can’t say for certain this will happen for you, but it might. Anyway, that’s what I have to say about living in the zero-point-now, and what the future and the past have to do with it.
** For the real Herman, read Pierre Delattre's extraordinary novel, Korrigan's Shadow