The Present

The Present

‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift – that’s why it’s called the present’. So why don’t we receive each new day as a gift? Fridge-magnet philosophy aside, there’s a deep and powerful truth waiting to be revealed here, in this season of gifts. But we need a greedy monkey to help us unwrap it. And we find him in Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig’s novel that turns 40 this year, in which he describes “the old South Indian Monkey Trap”. The trap “consists of a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole”. The monkey’s hand fits through the hole, but his clenched fist can’t fit back out. “The monkey is suddenly trapped.” But not by anything physical. He’s trapped by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served him well – “when you see rice, hold on tight!” – has become lethal. “The difficulty,” as Keynes put it, “lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” That’s why the past and past ways of thinking have the capacity to trap us from experiencing today as a present, a gift: Old beliefs that personal value is based on individual success trap us into trying to prove ourselves rather than love ourselves and to judge others by achievements too; A history that tells us we are unloved and broken traps us into relationships that will only demonstrate this point further; A past that has taught us to protect our emotions and numb pain...