Have you ever been told to "live in the moment" or "take things one day at a time?" It seems to be a mantra for good health. But, is that what we are made to do? A recent essay by Martin Seligman and John Tierney suggests otherwise. The title of the essay is We Aren't Built to Live in the Moment. Here is a quote from it: "We are misnamed. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, the “wise man,” but that’s more of a boast than a description...What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society...A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise." (NY Times, May 19, 2017)
The essay goes on to describe studies and research that has been done that indicates we spend most of our time thinking about the future. And that this ability is critical to our health, and our work in the present moments of our lives.
Out of the seemingly chaotic jumble of information we are constantly receiving, we make plans, future plans that bring order. Even God weighs in on this reality. Think of the well known quote from Jeremiah, "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
A while back I wrote a column about living with uncertainty. It had to do with unsettling news about my health. Many of you let me know you were praying for me and I am forever grateful for your thoughts and prayers. What I didn't know was what the future held as I continued to have tests, including a bone marrow biopsy.
Last Tuesday I heard the results of the biopsy. There is a diagnosis. I have a rare form of leukemia called Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia. It is a slow forming cancer that usually develops in men between the ages of 65 and 75.
The good news is it is treatable, even curative, through a bone marrow transplant. And so we have begun the process of meeting with a specialist and seeking out the best possible plan for a healthy outcome.
I know many of you have gone through similar experiences. Hearing your stories and witnessing the resiliency of you all is encouraging. God does indeed have plans for us all. Plans for our welfare and not for harm, to give us a future with hope!
Now here is the interesting thing to me. Seligman and Tierney are validating the very process I am going through: Taking a huge messy jumble of information and bringing order to it through future planning. At the same time I also realize my days are numbered in a way I have never thought about before.
Not that I hadn't ever thought about the numbering of one's days. I think, at least at times, we all think of our mortality. I've officiated at enough memorial services to know that. It's just that now it's different. One of my friends, a cancer survivor once told me, "after a while you get used to the possibility that death is fairly close at hand."
So there you have it. In the meantime? I'm living more in the moment. Taking things one day at a time. There's a corny adage that says, "Every day is a gift. That's why it's called the present." Maybe it's not so corny after all.
I can do this because I know of a plan for the future. A future with hope.