Presence, and Productivity?

by Christopher Lovejoy on November 30, 2019

One of the greatest pleasures of my life is to be unaware of my own existence.

Pleasantly and meaningfully absorbed by interesting sights and sounds, people and places, ideas and insights, I have no time to feel self-conscious, to be unabsorbed, to feel cut off from community and the surrounding world. I have time neither for presence nor absence.

In light of this admission, I can nevertheless appreciate this distinction: where presence is a capacity to bring the mind to rest in experience, to dwell at peace in the present moment, presence is also the facility by which to move and flow through life with crystal clear awareness.

Rest in peace, flow with promise, and presence itself cannot help but appear quite lovely.

In a world seemingly on the brink, who among us would not wish to cultivate and calibrate a living, loving, trusting, caring capability to switch at will, moment to moment to moment, between rest and flow, trust and faith, peace and bliss? Presently, I’m not seeing any raised hands.

Truth be told, we cannot tame what we do not name, and so I shall name it here and now for your benefit, and please forgive me for inserting pauses for emphasis: the assurance of … a happy … future.

Now I invite you to give or take a moment, if you care or dare, to pause; to be still; yes, to be still; to find your stillpoint … to inhale deeply and hold, here and now … to exhale and release, so as to relieve, here and now … to inhale, to restore, refresh, and rejoice, here and now.

You know in your heart of hearts that this is the moment you’ve been waiting for all your life, so please, please trust me when I say this: you don’t need my permission to be as you are, wherever you are; truth be told, you don’t even need your own permission to be … just be.

Just … be.

“This is enough; in fact, this is more than enough.”

Or is it?

This twinkling of a doubt need not be a splinter in the mind, driving you mad, just so long as you don’t insist on remaining conscious of “more is better” or “less is more” (take your pick); otherwise, this splinter will not leave you alone, and the purveyors of presence will not go away.

So let us explore. Or ignore. Your call.

who among us can think and feel
that they can be brisk with their food and their work
and not suffer any consequence?

For me, and perhaps for you too, busy is not a badge of honor.

Too many among us seem to be living and working almost entirely in the absence of presence, and by this I mean toggling attention incessantly between past and future, between regretting and expecting, hemming and hawing, remembering and prognosticating, recalling and forseeing.

To one degree or another, we all seem chronically dissatisfied or unhappy about one thang or another, or maybe it’s just about having to deal with one dang thang after another. Either way, it makes me wanna beat a hasty retreat into reclaiming a reclusive and refreshing solitude.

We’ve all been seduced to have as our ideals mere objects of desire external to ourselves, having fallen prey to placing the content of life, the whole of consciousness, the very essence of being, into such objects, be they food and drink, news and views, trinkets and gadgets.

Or, if you prefer, we’ve all been seduced to have as our ideals mere icons of desire sitting and moving inside the interface between self and other, having fallen prey to placing the essence of being into such icons, be they food and drink, news and views, trinkets and gadgets.

A mosaic of shared illusions in the form of a sensate cult(ure) in overdrive beckons and consumes, sedates and distracts, at almost every turn. The seduction itself can often seem too real for comfort.

How, then, can we not help but be thrown headlong into a cult(ure) of busy-as-a-badge-of-honor? If we cannot live happily and heartily with and through carefully cultivated illusions of an assured future, what can we possibly do? Who can we be? More to the point, who must we be?

Alan Watts spoke to this illusion in The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951):

If, to enjoy even the enjoyable present,
we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.”

We have no such assurance.

The best predictions are still matters of probability, rather than certainty,
and to the best of our knowledge, every one of us is going to suffer and die.

If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future,
we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans,
accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.

(emphasis in the original; text structured for greater emphasis)

Some of us can and do live happily on the assumption of a future assured. Others are more than happy to live contentedly in the here and now, even without the perception of a future secured. Still others (myself included) seem to be chasing our tails in pursuit of endless success.

For us, maybe love is the answer: “love, and do what you will” (St. Augustine tells us), but (asks Alan Watts) “how does one love what one does not like?” Perhaps the formula for such loving is as simple as this: “resist; accept that I resist; open, receive, expand, release, respond.”

Resist: acknowledge and accept that I resist; open, receive, expand, release, respond.

Resist: acknowledge and accept that I resist; open, receive, expand, release, respond.

Resist: acknowledge and accept that I resist; open, receive, expand, release, respond.

All in a matter of minutes (or seconds), or maybe hours, days, weeks, months, years.

On the other extreme, of being wholly grounded in the moment, of being wholly content in and with the moment, of being oblivious to past and future both, what need or want is there of productivity? Wherein lies the need or desire to be constructive, creative, and productive?

Love, doing what I will, loving what I do not like, seems counterproductive, but is it?

Being wholly in the moment, presence is beautiful; it’s wonderful, it’s magnificent, it’s sublime. No argument here. Productivity? Not so much. Although, if presence can blur the lines between work and play, productivity and creativity, perhaps one can love what one does not like.

To change or not to change? This is not a question for anyone who gives fate its due. To change or not to change for the better? But who is to say what is better without a prescription? Where the moment is lived in presence, an abiding sense of focus, flow, and freedom obtains.

A simple prescription for a life lived well, to be sure, and there it is, but is it enough?

Here’s a thought: change nothing ~ just stay alive to your love, your truth, your beauty, your magnificence, your beneficence, letting people, places, and things change on their own, with this as your ultimate, intimate nudge nudge, wink wink: living and loving what is, here, now.

Perhaps the mother and father of all questions for a life lived well in the creation, below the illusion perceived as this world, is this: am I ready and willing and able, in each and every moment, to allow, expand, and release presence to a point where I can love what I do not like?

I invite you to contemplate some semblance of the relevant thought process …

I acknowledge, here and now, that I do not like this … I accept that I resist, here and now, that I do not like this … I hereby open myself to this moment, choosing to receive and release this moment … I am now free to respond, with and through presence, to this very moment.


i resist/realize this moment


i acknowledge this moment


i accept this moment


i open to receive this moment


i release this moment


i release and respond to this moment


i persist to resist this moment

Could this algorithm point to the elixir of life? Could it be the elixir of life itself?

Presence, yes, indubitably; productive activity, yes, with or through presence.

Eternal life is realized
when the last trace between
“I” and “now” has vanished,
when there is just this “now”
and nothing else ~ Alan Watts

The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)
Chapter IX, Religion Revealed

In this moment, it is finished, sufficiently secured, satisfied, signified.

In this moment, it is complete ~ focus, flow, and freedom realized.

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