Living in the Now will mean different things to different people.
For a daily worker in India in the unorganised sector who needs to earn his wage working everyday to keep hunger away, it is not an option but a challenge to face the next 24 hours without work.
This is not often realised by the other sections of the society including the leftist and rightist politicians who declare a strike (no work day) at the drop of a hat to express their solidarity with the well heeled organised sector of workers and others agitating for some cause or the other. Incidentally the entire organised sector enjoys the day as a nice holiday, relaxing at home. Outwardly they protest against the strike called ‘bandh’ in local parlance but thoroughly celebrate the off day. Only the unorganised sector labourers go hungry. They constitute some 75% of the work force! They have no protection, no sympathisers or empathisers. The only others who protest against such disruptions are bosses of businesses who lament the opportunity revenue loss.
In my parents’ time living in the now for them meant no day dreaming. They would remind themselves about the life style they could afford, after setting off some savings for future contingencies like health problems, children’s education etc. They were frugal and simple in their habits. No expensive holidaying, no borrowing, no speculation, no keeping up with the Joneses or spends on unwanted things. Thus factoring in their future needs was their way of living in the Now. This was labelled conservatism.
In my working days, the pattern set by my parents was the basic approach to life. I too remained conservative till my marriage. Then the pattern changed somewhat especially after a stint abroad. Yet, through all the stages I was cautious enough to remain solvent although I did borrow from banks for buying my car and house. Towards the fag end of my career came the credit card and open stock market in which I made limited investment. I used the card as a facility but always repaid the entire outstandings on the next due date.
The credit card culture has vastly changed lives of people all over the world. It has taught us instant gratification, whether or not we can afford a certain spend. We need no ready cash. Our family can demand anything and get it. That is the power of the piece of plastic. This is a typical example of not living in the now. People spend today what they are hoping to earn in the next 12 to 18 months. Card issuers charge a hefty interest and are not too keen to acquire customers who will pay clear the amount immediately. In league with pushers of luxury goods and exotic holidays they make tempting offers that are easily bitten by gullible customers. This culture has come to stay. It has changed our mindset. We believe that living in the now means not worrying too much about tomorrow. People spend as if there is no tomorrow, never mind if they can’t discharge their debt obligations in future. The more debt you accumulate, the bigger person you are! Living beyond means is par for the course. This is probably what constitutes the economic boom and demand driven economy.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe madly in wealth accumulation. They are relatively very small in number but huge in accumulation. 5% of the people who own 50% of the world’s wealth. 10% own 90% of the world’s riches. The wealth they own is rising every day. Many of them employ dubious means to dodge taxes. Some are influential enough to restructure tax laws to their advantage.They are too powerful to be touched. They are another type who live in the now.
To some extent Corona virus has acted as a great leveller. It has not spared even the head of the most powerful country in the world.
What then could be a balanced approach?
What all the types explored above, except the Indian unprotected unorganised sector worker need to know is the uncertainty of life. Birthdays are of little consequence. The truth is that you are reborn everyday when you rise from your bed. Death makes no distinction between the rich and the poor, conmen and the honest. It strikes at will, at random. Even the next moment is not guaranteed. Everyday is your birthday. Live one day at a time. Celebrate it by being kind, showing sympathy and empathy to one and all humans and other creatures. Be moderate in your approach to life and its celebration. Shun hatred. Attend to your needs but don’t yield to greed. If your happiness is dependent on another person’s misery, avoid it.
When it is bed time count your blessings. It is an opportunity to mentally remember the people who have made your day memorable. The next morning, if there is one, will be another day, another new Now!