Climbing the Cross of the Moment

May 18, 2012 § 4 Comments

We would rather be ruined than changed

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die.

W.H. Auden

The Age of Anxiety

A common form of despair, in both one’s professional and personal life, is the feeling that we have wasted ourselves in a life that is somehow less than what we could have had.  It is of course pointless to think this way.  What is past is gone now.   Backward looking, whether with despair or with pride, is not a useful exercise.

But many of us live in a way that almost guarantees that we will arrive at that dreadful sense of things.   The passage from Auden captures perfectly this idea.  We fear change.  We imagine that what we are, and what we have, is the presumptively safe and secure choice.  We say that we are open to change, ready to make a move when the right time comes, but often it seems the “right time” never comes.

This way of thinking stands on an illusion.  We suppose that we can remain in the shelter of our fixed existence.  We imagine that we can evade the risk of change.  Just stay put.

But change is our inescapable constant. We experience change in each moment of our lives.  Change can be small, the sun goes behind the clouds, or large, the storm rips apart the oak.  The only certain thing is that our existence in the next moment will not be what it is now.

We all know the aphorism-  “everything can change in a New York minute.”  We may be hit by a bus or be offered the opportunity of a lifetime out of the blue.  But what few of us really understand is that we exist in a sea of swirling change, moment to moment.  There is no steady state for us.

If we can understand this idea, that change is our only constant, that each moment is a new moment, perhaps we can fear less this thing we call “change.”  Whether we realize it or not, our battleground is the “cross of the moment.”  Whether to live fully and presently in each moment is the only choice we have.

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