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Ladies and Gentlemen... Your Attention, Please

When you are on the wire, there is no past, there is no future, there is only now

This article appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. Behind the Turbulence: Stillness For those of us whose lives are, at best, loose around the edges, learning to focus the attention and stay in the present moment sounds like a useful technique. We’ve heard that “mindfulness” is healing. That paying close attention can make us happier. So we’ll get around to it, one of these days. Lurking in the back of our minds, however, is the certain knowledge that this business of living in the moment is pure illusion. The reality, as we can all clearly see, is that time marches on, flows like a river, waits for no one — choose your metaphor; meanwhile, time is going, going, gone. Like Einstein before him, however, physicist Julian Barbour doesn’t equate w h a t’s obvious with what’s real. After studying time for more than three decades, he’s come to a fascinating, if counterintuitive, conclusion: It’s an illusion. All that’s real are instants that he calls “Nows.” Our brains are hardwired to take the experience of these “Nows” and create the illusion of time. (Think of what hap …

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