Life in Present Tense

In Consciousness by Marc Ashley


She tells me to put my phone down, but I continue scrolling the comments of one of my posts.

Put your phone down!”

I lock my screen, place it screen down on the creviced, varnished table and turn to her apologetically. She tells me that I’ve got to learn to be present; that I should absorb my environment instead of always getting absorbed in another world.

Being present isn’t just about living in the now, it’s experiencing the tones of light that vary across parts of the room, the aromas that create the atmosphere, the rustling of the trees outside of her window, the way the air-conditioning hits your skin, the way your mouth tastes after a meal, after brushing it, after a cigarette.

I understood what she was trying to tell me and I knew exactly where she was coming from but I haven’t kept it in practice.

The sunlight illuminates the smoke bleeding from my cigarette into hues of blue, illuminates my smoke exhalation grey, they blend together, there is no wind; I experience this.

The taste of iron explodes in my mouth as I gather saliva to swallow, it goes down my throat; I experience this.

The sound of her voice comforting me, telling me it’s okay to be distracted once in a while. I feel her hand through the sleeve of my T-shirt, reassuring me that there’s nothing to feel sorry about.

I look at her look at me, I look out the window, I look at her look at me looking at her; I experience this.

I understand now, what she means.

Life practiced in the essence of presence is a skill a lot of us lack in the essence of existence. I spend a lot of time distracting myself; tuning myself out to the world around me.

I do this because it has become almost human nature to hunt the Internet for cat videos and/or moralistic/political/religious comments that make you feel better about your intelligence, which in turn makes you feel better about your existence.

I do this because I am oblivious to the fact that the world around me at present would provide a more holistic experience than a video of a drunken street brawl. I do this because I have somehow adapted to experience the lives of others through the use of social media.

Does this make me a voyeur?

I sometimes forget to remember that my responsibility as a writer is to pay attention to the world around me and note observations. I sometimes forget to remember that my responsibility as a human being is to live life; to experience life; the smell of saltwater blowing in the wind on the beach entering your nostrils.

Forget that bullshit about people telling you to live life to the fullest, and just live. For once in your life, run your fingertips across the surface of the walls in your house like braille to the blind, feeling each bump and crack and allow it to tell you a story.

Forget that bullshit about quotes telling you to go there, and do this and do that, and just stand in the shower for half an hour without trying to reevaluate your existence, or just do anything that allows you to intimately experience your environment; to intimately experience your “now”.

Is this going to give you some sort of enlightenment, or some creative epiphany?

Probably not…

Would it let you extract a catharsis, some sort of meaning in your life?

I honestly wouldn’t know.

Is it magical, spiritual or otherwise fruitful?

That’s really for you to decide. But what it does provide is perspective, and perspective has taken me to thoughts and ideas that flow rapidly through my mind like a visual montage and it gives me motivation to live rather than to just exist.

I look at her look at me, I blow my smoke to the side so as not to cloud her face with gaseous nicotine; I experience this.

I take her hand in mine, bring it to my face and sniff the perfumed body lotion off the pores of her palms.

We experience this.

About the Author
Marc Ashley

Marc Ashley


Marc loves comic books, anime, 90's Saturday morning cartoons (especially the Ninja Turtles) and obliterates all cold cuts in his proximity. He annotates comic books based on historical figures and events, makes inkblots and ponders about a career writing comic books (because he wants to go to Comic Con for free). Also, he gets repulsed by #wanderlust posts. Follow his instagram nonsense @nihilismist.

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