The “present” is an illusion.

The “present” is an illusion.

I had an epiphany today. I love epiphanies, which are really just mental and emotional breakthroughs.  BRIDGES was started because of an epiphany.

I had my epiphany as I heard this mind-blowing truth on the train into San Francisco while listening to a Ted Talk by Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert. He shares:

“If you think that what is real is the present, you’re wrong. The past and the future are both real. The present is a psychological illusion. The present is just the wall between yesterday and today.

If you go to the beach you see water and you see sand. And it looks like there’s a line between them, but that line is not a third thing. There’s only water and there’s only sand. Similarly, all moments in time are either in the past or in the future.

Which is to say, the present doesn’t exist.”

So here is my epiphany:

My “present” in many ways feels tattered, messy, and painful but it doesn’t actually exist.

What I really have (same as you!) are just two things: 1) my past-both recent and years-ago past; and 2) my future-both the coming hours and days and the years-from-now future.

I cannot change my past, ANY of it!, BUT, thankfully, I can create my future, ALL of it!, (what will be my past, my legacy) starting in the very near-term moments coming at me. My future isn’t years from now. It is TODAY!

Dan goes on to share this comforting insight:

“Human beings are works in progress who mistakenly think they’re finished.”

Let me share a bit more with you why this epiphany means so much to me today:

I had a challenging but ultimately meaningful weekend. I visited my alma mater, Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, California, with my person, the love of my life. We spent more time there than I thought we would walking the campus, sharing stories and reflecting on our mutual experiences there. I loved every minute of the time there and the feelings and thoughts that stirred in me.

I thought about my own son, Eli, starting his high school career TODAY, and felt the pain of not being able to be with him on this important day (and how much divorce sucks). I thought about the things I did accomplish in high school but, I am a little embarrassed to admit, I mostly thought about the things I didn’t accomplish.

The gym door was cracked open so we snuck in and looked at the numerous banners hanging on the walls. People we both knew. Guys I played with.
When I saw the banner we earned for being league co-champions in football in 1984, the year I watched from the sidelines while my season-ending broken collarbone healed, this wave of regret washed over  me. My name is not on the walls of Northgate.

Honestly, it wasn’t very satisfying. It was hard. Sort of brutal actually.

I mentally fast-forwarded to my nearly 50 year-old self of today. And I started thinking about the 30 years since high school. What have I actually accomplished? What dent have I made on the universe? With BRIDGES I am trying so hard to learn from my past and dig into that which matters most and make the world a better place but the progress feels so slow and the “tick-tock” of my life’s clock is speeding up or getting louder (good thing because my hearing is fading a little) and I panicked a little, maybe more than a little.

But today, this very near-term future, what you have and I have in equal amounts, is all that really matters.

All of a sudden the gift that is today, and the danger of procrastination, i.e. wasting today, is clearer and more real to me than they’ve ever been.

So, today…

I will take courage.
I will continue.
I will let my past inform me, even guide me at times, but I will not let it hold me back.
I will embrace my future moments and honor their power to create what will eventually become my past by moving forward with a renewed determination and boldness that are possible because of my past–the good and the bad, AND the clear fact that I am nowhere near being finished.
The future, these very next moments and beyond, is mine…and yours.

Let’s go!

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