It has become obvious to me the extent to which people talk of plans. It isn't possible to spend much time with friends or family before questions of plans invade the moment; questions of career goals, buying real estate, moving, children, cars. It would seem as though there's always something just beyond the horizon which is more important or promising than what is in front of us now; today, tomorrow, this week, this month.
I admit that planning is a natural reaction to an unsatisfying, largely unhappy existence. It makes logical sense that we plan as a natural way to escape a present reality.
And, of course, it is completely healthy to have dreams and aspirations, none of which can be achieved without a plan. Some amount of planning is an essential part of a healthy life. But the risk of planning is that our plans become more important than our reality. Faith in a plan makes it easy to ignore a present situation which is completely wrong...empty, lacking, or unhealthy. Like religious faith, plans help us to cope with the present. But vague notions of a hopeful future simply do not compare with the creation of a beautiful now. Quite simply, to live for a plan is to waste away an entire lifetime reaching for something illusive and imaginary while never learn to exist in the present.
Even when planners do achieve goals and plans come true, they don't know how to enjoy the moment. This explains the grumpy American retired couple who plans for so long to go to Europe one day, only to find themselves miserable and arguing as they finally stand beneath the Eiffel Tower. Naturally, they have developed a habit of blinding themselves to the present and now they don't know what to do with the moment when it arrives. They don't know how to be.
The phrase "Carpe Diem" has become a bit of a cliche. Like most cliches, it is misunderstood. To live for the moment is to embrace what is all around us. It is to perceive the people actually in our lives right now, to notice the colors of the day just outside our window, to become lost in a hobby, to spend all day and all night uninterrupted with a friend or lover, to be interested in the opinions of a taxi driver, to notice people as you walk down the street. But most importantly, to seize the day means to think more about how you feel at this very moment than how you expect to feel, should feel, or hope to feel in the future.
To live for today doesn't mean that we stop growing and making progress in our lives. To the contrary, to live for today is to stop imagining and start doing. It is to stop boring friends and family with your plans, and start coexisting with them in the moment. It is to be your authentic self and to do what makes you feel happy, stimulated, fulfilled, and content today. It is to find peace in the idea that, even though what is will not last, you will feel differently tomorrow and do something different when it is natural to do so. You don't have to know now! You don't have to feel that pressure!
These days, when people ask me about plans, I feel as though I don't even know how to speak in that language. It has become a foreign concept to me. How could I, or why should I, decide to do x or y in a year or two? How could I know what is right for the future me? Even if I did have some vague notions, why would I blind myself to the present moment as I think about it?
John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." So the question is whether we let our plans overshadow our lives, or the other way around.