“Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. In other words, if we’re going to be more cheerful in the future, it’s because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now.”
— Pema Chödrön in When Things Fall Apart
I love quotations, and have for many years. When I still typed term papers (before the computerization of scholarly products) my last great act before the final version was submitted was to pour through books for a quotation that somehow captured the theme, or spirit, of the argument conveyed in my writing. That always accompanied my submissions, sometimes to my detriment. I have never been accused of being a conformist.
It’s funny to think about that now, in the context of an academic life where “quotation” or citation is often interwoven with intellectual property and academic integrity, rather than with spirit or intention. I have been wrestling with several issues to do with those concepts this week…including the use (and misuse) of my own words. But, this morning, I paused in the present moment to fret less about the details of those events and focus instead on the reason behind our emphasis on word use in academic integrity, quotation, and citation: words matter.
In this day and time, our words are easily recorded in emails, texts, blogs, tweets, status updates…it’s practically endless. At times we take pride in our words and other times we may wish to retract them. But, they belong to us, and they chart a course that tells the world who we are and where we are going. Each word which emerges from us is our experience of the present moment.
As I prepared to write this particular blog entry, the quote from Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart entered my mind. Chödrön suggests that the future isn’t necessarily defined by waiting on the arrival of events yet to come. Instead, the future unfolds by the living of present moments, and our intention to learn and grow from the gifts presented to us in those moments.
This intentional awareness and present living is a part of many faith traditions. I also read it in Christian writer Richard Rohr, in the Buddhist writings of Thích Nhất Hạnh, and I see and experience it lived in personal and communal practices of meditation and contemplative prayer. This spiritual philosophy resonates with me and reminds me of the intentionality with which I speak, publish, post, converse. In those daily moments, the core of my present state of being is revealed, and those words point me (and those with whom I share my words) into what our future will be. Our words mark our present reality, and that present reality becomes our future.
We may not be able to retract our words, or our actions. But, the good news is, we always have the opportunity to create a new present moment.