Foolish Consistency Is The Hobgoblin Of Little Minds

“To force myself into a single role, to decide to be just one thing in life, would kill off large parts of me. Rather, I recognize that I live now and only now, and I will do what I want to do this moment, and not what I decided was best for me yesterday.” ~ Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself … 

Hugh is simply telling us what many others have said throughout the course of history: to get the most out of life, the most out of each day, we must live in the here and now. Ralph Waldo Emerson similarly instructed us to “Speak what you think to-day in words as hard as cannon-balls and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said to-day.” He also said that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” In other words, it is not good to continue to do the same things we would have done yesterday just because they are the same things. Right now calls for this moment’s actions, this moment’s words, this moment’s living. And the only way we will see what we need to see, do what we need to do, and feel what we need to feel, is if we enter the present moment with an open mind and an open heart.

In this particular moment of our lives, we are further along than we have ever been before, and the things we thought to be right yesterday are not necessarily true today. The fact of the matter is that yesterday we did not know as much as we do today–things that we could not foresee have now become known to us. Perhaps we had something planned to do today that might now be less helpful than it had previously seemed, or something to say that now seems less wise or unnecessary. There is nothing wrong with changing our minds and allowing ourselves to be wholly in the present, listening to the signs and hints that the current moment is giving to us.

Even when our days become quite busy and filled with so much activity that living in the present moment is a constant struggle, we have the ability to simplify them–to let go of everything that have no purpose in our here and now. After all, why should we bother ourselves with things that are not currently involving our time, energy, and concentration? It is actually quite a liberating thought: to allow the present moment to let us know what is demanded of us and release whatever is not. Such reasoning allows us to let go of any obsolete rules and attitudes that might not serve us well today, since yesterday had its own requirements and stipulations, and everything and everyone has grown and changed since. To truly live in the present, we must first realize and accept that the present has its very own sets of rules, and then make our best effort to recognize what is positive and necessary for ourselves–and for those in our lives–right now, and then do it.

Take time to pause throughout the day and reflect upon what is most important to you at that very moment.

Questions to consider:

Why do so many of us feel that each day goes by the same rules as the other days? Why do so many of us seem to want this to be the case?

Do you follow Hugh’s advice to do “what we want to do this moment” instead of what you have always felt you should do? How?

What is the present moment calling on you to do?

For further thought:

“Only one person in a thousand knows the trick of really living in the present. Most of us spend fifty-nine minutes an hour living in the past, with regret for lost joys or shame for things badly done (both utterly useless and weakening), or in a future which we either long for or dread. There is only one minute in which you are alive, this minute, here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable minute, which is exactly what it is: a miracle and unrepeatable.” ~ Storm Jameson


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Filed under Commentary, Food For Thought, Living, Opinion

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