We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away. We try to give it the support of the future, and think how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control for a time we can never be sure of reaching.
Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.
I’m reading Pascal’s Pensées for one of my classes and this passage hit me like a ton of bricks. How poignant, how important, how true. I have been struggling for years to live more in the present, desperately (and largely unsuccessfully) trying to wrangle my thoughts away from the depths of the past or the expanses of the future. I’ve always been a planner but I desperately long to be someone with more spontaneity, whimsy, and appreciation for the moment. College is an easy place to get lost in the past or the future and I’ve found myself thinking of these four years merely as a stepping stone that serves to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. It’s a toxic mindset. I’m pledging, starting now, to make a concerted effort to embrace the present. The future can wait.