Shall we live in the moment? It’s possible, of course, to do it, but we cannot experience it. Just from the sheer physics of it: something happens, and it takes some time – not much, but some – for the data to physically reach our senses. Not even light is instantaneous. Then a signal has to travel from the outer shell to the brain. By the time we’re aware of it, it’s over. Only those unfortunate few who are technically alive, but in a persistent vegetative state may be living in the moment. Even then, it’s possible we’re missing some signal or other being sent out of that quiescent skull into the room, the hospice, the eternal vastness beyond, missing that faint tapping on the inner bone that indicates a thing is living in there. As for what it’s like in that locked room, that’s a subject to be set aside for later perusal.
Right. Technically we can’t live in the present. But awareness cannot exist without memory, even from a subjective point of view. When you see a face, what you’re getting is a pelting stream of photons, constantly changing; you have to supply the meaning. There’s a story of a congenitally blind man who, through surgery, was able to see for the first time. He described it as an onslaught of totally unfamiliar data. He could only identify what must have been his wife’s face because the sound of her voice seemed to be coming from it. She was neither beautiful nor ugly, just disturbing; it was, indeed, hard to tell where the face ended, and its surroundings began. It was bewildering. Ultimately, he became blind again, but not from any physical cause. He simply couldn’t deal with the odd new sensations.
Imagine all your senses like that: vibrating ear drums, tingling skin, chemical eruptions in the nasal passages, all prompting a deluge of neuronal activity, incomprehensible because never before experienced, yet unavoidable. We only know what these things mean because we live in the past.
Okay, sure, you say, we need a bit of the past, but surely we can avoid the future.
Can we, now? Let’s plan on it.