Lonely in the present

Sometimes, I’m lonely with a loneliness that people can’t fill, and so it is that the lonelier I am, the more I desire solitude. Solitude allows me to reflect on things that dont seem that interesting to most people, a fact which increases my desire for solitude...

In Buddhism and Taoism, there’s an emphasis on being in the present. I’ve never understood this because it seems to me that if I’m doing something boring that it’s an excellent time to not be in the present, but to think of things more profound than, let’s say, doing dishes. I’m not saying that doing dishes can’t be profound, but why would I make it my goal to become completely absorbed by the chore of doing dishes every time I wash dishes? Yet, I’ve seen this recommended in many books (Be Here Now, Chop Wood Carry Water, the writings of Alan Watts, Thomas Merton, Thích Nhất Hạn, and others). As to why, they only say that the present is where we are, so if our minds are someplace else, then were not completely alive. We’re half dead then? I don’t see myself as ever being incompletely alive; it’s simply that some things energize me, and other things enervate me, and a focus upon the present isn’t always the most energizing option.

The painting is Three Friends in Winter by Ma Yuan (1160-1225).