Very few of us truly tend to live in the present; for the most part we live in the past or the future. At it’s extreme this can lead to either an “Eden” or a “Utopian” narrative.
The Eden viewpoint is based on the idea that the best was in the past - nostalgia, rose-tinted memories, school days were the best days of our lives, yearning for the lost innocence of childhood, the good old days, and so on – while the future is doom and gloom – imminent catastrophe from global warming, terrorists, spread of capitalism, growth of communism, over population etc.
By contrast, the Utopian vision of the world is the idea that we are moving towards a better future – the past was a place of greater division, less education & understanding, more disease, shorter lifespan, and the like – whereas the future will be a far greater place – cures for diseases, longer healthier lives, more advanced technology, the global village, an alternative to Windows Vista operating system and so forth.
Which of these camps you fall into will fundamentally affect the way you view, and interact, with the world.
But this same past-dominant/ future-dominant idea can play out on a day-to-day level too. Are you the kind of person who spends the majority of their time mulling over what’s just happened, or are you the type who is always wondering what’s around the next corner? Of course we all tend to be a mix, but inevitably one tends to dominate.
By nature I’ve always been the kind of person with one foot in the future. I don’t tend to dwell in the past much; perhaps I do slightly more now as I get older, but the majority of my attention is still focused on what could happen, or what’s about to happen. Sometimes this is to the detriment of the now; I can easily miss out on what’s happening right under my nose because my sights are set in the distance.
The Eastern Philosophy of Taoism (pronounced Dow (rhymes with cow) - ism) is all about living in the now – the past is gone, the future doesn’t exist, so if we are to extract all we can from life then we should take notice of our surroundings and our actions, and “be” (a superb introduction to the principles of Taoism is Benjamin Hoff’s “The Tao of Pooh” which explains the concepts through looking at the behaviour of Pooh Bear from the A.A. Milne stories, and is well worth sticking on your birthday or xmas list).
Of all religions and philosophies I’ve looked at, Taoism is the one that has always had the most appeal, although it’s one I find almost impossible to implement.