You Can’t Divide the Present

Bruce Lee thought that “the now is indivisible.” His analogy was that when you take apart a car and neatly arrange its individual pieces on the floor, all of the parts may still be there, but the car itself is not. The pile of metal you stand in front of can no longer fulfill the duties of a car; its nature and original function are lost.

In the same vein, when you plan your day in hourly blocks, you are taking it apart. Instead of experiencing the day, living it one minute at a time, you are breaking it down into many small futures, for each of which you form hopes and expectations. With your plan in hand, you then spend each next present moment worrying about whether these expectations (which are now elements from your past!) will come true.

The best that can happen? All of your expectations are met. In that scenario, you’ll likely be somewhat satisfied and content but not extremely happy, for happiness always has an element of surprise to it.

The worst that can happen? Your plans are foiled, your hopes dashed, and, on top of having wasted many present moments cheering for something that didn’t occur, you’ll now spend more time feeling miserable about your foolishness.

This isn’t to say that all plans are useless. Planning is part of the human experience. A good backup plan, a long-term strategy well-executed, these things surely have their place.

What Bruce’s idea of the indivisible now is meant to remind us of, however, is that planning is not living. Living is what happens after, because of, and sometimes in spite of us making plans. Life is in no way obligated to grant your plan safe passage, and often, it won’t. The question is can we still enjoy life when that happens? Are we ready to engage fully regardless, or will we go down with our plans?

Make your plans, but then put them on the back burner of your mind. Focus on each next step as best as you can. Enjoy the present. Savor it. Be here for it.

Don’t divide the now. Don’t take apart life itself.