On Presence

Be where you are. You can't be anywhere else.


This profoundly obvious, yet profoundly profound, statement deserves to be at the center of personal, physical, psychological, spiritual - after all, what's the difference between them? - wholeness.


We're always trying to be somewhere else. It hasn't always been so epidemic, at least as far as I can guess. But in this world of decreasing attention spans, pocket escape mechanisms, and information overload (that, ironically, usually takes place in echo chambers) - in this world, we need presence more than ever.


I first noticed this about a year ago at perhaps the worst time to do so: a Sunday morning as I walked into church. I forgot my phone at home. How did I know? Because I was walking along and was suddenly struck with a flash of anxiety when I became aware that my pocket felt empty, that the familiar weight (in all senses of the word) wasn't swinging in stride with me.


And it didn't happen just once. At least three or four times in the next few hours, I would forget and have the same jolt once again: I don't have my phone.


I'm willing to bet you know the feeling.



I had to be estranged for two short hours from that shiny little rectangle, that human experiment at omnipresence, that pocket-sized protection from any momentary discomfort, that trap door out of any awkward social environment and, of course, boredom during the pastor's sermon or the pre/post-service mingling: my globally-connected cellular device. A device that didn't even exist until 12 years ago.


Even though I am very intentional about limiting my phone usage, especially when I'm with people, there was something about not having the potential to be un-present that unnerved me.


What we need is presence.


Being present means fully embracing the current moment, in all its beauty and its ugliness.

Being present means appreciating the humanity of the people you are with right now.

Being present means really seeing the person in front of you.

Being present means really listening to the words spoken by others around you - not just your own.

Being present means not letting your mind wander into fantasies, dreams, and other neurological concoctions designed to let your spirit turn in on itself, rather than opening outwards to receive and respect.


Being present means ... be where you are.

You can't be anywhere else.


When you eat, eat.

When you sleep, sleep.

When you walk, walk.

When you sit, relax.

That is the Way.


-David Jones, "The Way and the Word"


Photo credit: Banksy

©2019 by Corey Farr.