Archive for February, 2012

The Present Moment

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

I am conscious that I have yet to finish the Phronema entry on God Within. I want to see if I can explain immanence using Nishida’s idea of ‘front structure’. Interestingly it, ties in very well with Simone Weil’s idea that what separates us is also that which connects us. And with Polanyi’s explanation of tacit knowledge using the analogy of a blind man’s stick.

Meanwhile, I came across a very interesting interview with Jane Hirshfield,

Zen and the Art of Poetry (www.bu.edu/agni/interviews/online/2006/towler.html).

Interesting, not just because of what she had to say about the influence of Zen on poetry, but also because of her mention of a poet I had never heard of before, whose discovery was for her like Chapman’s Homer to Keats – Czeslaw Milosz. So I looked up the poem of his she first encountered, titled appropriately enough Encounter.


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.

A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.

One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,

Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going

The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.

I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.


The poem has all the immediacy and emotional punch of a haiku focusing on the present moment. So it is easy to see why it would appeal to anyone immersed in Zen. What appears at first to be a nostalgic reflection, a little sad perhaps, is transformed by the last line, ‘I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder,’ which refocuses the attention on a moment in that wonderful winter dawn.

Which raises again, it comes up again and again, the significance of the present moment. A moment so fleeting, suddenly… now… then gone. Not to be repeated, but neither quite forever. Because with the glimpse of a photograph, the surfacing of a memory sparked by a taste, a sound, smell, voice, or some other trigger and that moment is there again in all its immediacy. The moment was, and has gone, but its emotional impact has transcended time.