In Search of a Tranquil Mind

Alan Jacobs

There is nothing wrong with living in the present moment, but Alan Jacobs insists in this short think piece that we have a problem with presentism, a way of living which embraces the immediate as the only thing worth attending to. The infinite scroll of social media and the noise of 24/7 news coverage are "designed to generate constant, instantaneous responses to the provocations of Now."

The result? We have lost tranquility of mind.

Jacobs suggests that one way of addressing the problem of presentism is to spend time thinking about the past and the future. Learning from the past can help us avoid the pitfalls of the present. It can also help us see how actions in one moment reverberate into the next. Studying the past can also help us "see that some decisions that seemed trivial when they were made proved immensely important, while others which seemed world-transforming quickly sank into insignificance." Looking to the past for the sake of the future grants us perspective, something Jacobs describes as "temporal bandwidth." It's a challenging call.

Pouring Coffee