At this very moment I am bombarded with any number of factors I could obsess on, make projections about or worry over. Of course, I have the upcoming surgery and along the way to that procedure I have any number of things I must do to prepare for that moment. I have pre-op testing to do, pelvic exercises to perform and more the details of which I need not bother to address. Each of these present unique reasons to become obsessive over what the future holds. I am, however, quite calm, feeling little or no stress. I take each requirement, each obligation, as a thing to do in the moment, a thing over which I have a modicum of control. What I don’t have, however, is any control over the outcome so I let the outcome go.
I am reminded of a Zen tale in which a novice monk is seeking enlightenment. It is, of course, elusive so he goes to his master complaining that enlightenment is never going to be his and so he is quitting. “Before you quit,” the master responds, “please travel to see my friend and you may find what you are looking for.” So the novice agrees. He travels over tall mountains, through the dry desert, across endless marshland and swamps, finally arriving at the monastery of his master’s friend. He climbs off his horse saying to the monk, “I searched for enlightenment and could not find it; I was told to come to see you as my last effort to find that which I seek.” The master replied, “Where can you find your clothing?” The novice was immediately enlightened.
The simple truth is that enlightenment is something that one finds, not by looking or seeking, but by experiencing the world around us. To experience the world is to stand on the inside and focus on the outside, to embrace exteriority, to be compassionate and responsible. Becoming responsible, in Levinasian terms, means to become responsible for the other person; to present the self to the other with no reservations or expectations and then to wait patiently for the other to perhaps, though not necessarily, respond. Extended beyond the other, to situations of anticipation, being responsible means, perhaps, to learn patience, to be able to be in a state of proximity, waiting for events, rather than the other, to reveal themselves in their fullness. Until the moment arrives where the event is upon the self, there is no reason to anticipate or project.
The fact is that I have prostate cancer. I could spend all my time being slave to that fact or I could simply extend myself by continuing to live life in this very moment. For me the choice is quite simple, living life in the moment is a superior ethical response than the problematic of living life tied to something outside of my control. It is useless to anticipate, to project, to try to control the future. If I take all the measures I am asked to take, perform all the obligations presented by my doctors, and otherwise live responsibly I have done all I can do and I am quite happy with the moment I am in.