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Be Here Now, or I’ll see you there later

Andy Stone

Be here now. Remember that phrase? It was mighty popular back in the hippie days – good advice, good philosophy and the title of a book by one of the great psychedelic gurus, Ram Dass.Unlike so much of the hippie flotsam and jetsam that clutters our mental seas, “Be Here Now” still has some solid worth. Spend your life in the here-and-now. Right here. Right now. Don’t live cowering in fear of the future. Don’t live drowning in guilt for the past. Life is too brief, too precious and if you don’t pay attention … oops! You missed it.No, it’s not easy. If you’re not worrying about unpaid bills … you’re wondering whether worrying about those bills counts as fear of the future or guilt for the past. And if that’s not on your mind, you’re quizzing yourself about the difference between flotsam and jetsam. Or whether you ever really looked good in that tie-dye T-shirt. (Nope.) Or you’re pondering the profound fact that “here now” is the same as “now here” – and, if you take away the space between the “w” and the “h,” “now here” turns into “nowhere.” So “Be Here Now” is the same as “Be Now Here,” is the same as “Be Nowhere.” Far out!So, OK, all of that – from the first “Be Here Now” to the last “Far out” – dates back to the late ’60s and early ’70s. And that, you may recall, was before the beginning of the Modern Age.Back in 1971 – when Ram Dass’ “Be Here Now” was published – there was just one phone company, seven television channels and no such thing as the “personal computer.”So it was a lot easier to Be Here Now way back then. It’s easier to focus on Right Here, Right Now, when there aren’t a thousand voices screaming in your face, whispering in your ear, chuckling in your subconscious.Now you’ve got 500 channels on your TV, wireless broadband on your laptop, music and movies on your portable DVD player … who has the time to pay attention to Here and Now when there’s such a flood of There and Then washing over every one of us every minute of every day?Be Here Now? Fat chance!And that brings us to the topic of cell phones.Cell phones seem to have been almost perfectly designed to fill in every last chink in the wall of distraction that separates us from that fleeting instant of Here and Now. Wherever you go, you’re surrounded by hordes of zombies chatting on their phones, oblivious to whatever might actually be happening right then and there. That’s OK. People are entitled to pay attention or not pay attention to their lives, as they see fit.But still, it was a bit of a jolt the other day when I heard a nearby cell phone ring … with a custom ring that consisted of the first few bars of “Hey Jude.””Hey Jude,” the Beatles, 1968. Somehow, it felt absolutely wrong for a cell phone to be doing its bit to obliterate the here and now, ringing with a tune from a band and a time that were at the very heart of our first realization that a philosophy like Be Here Now could have meaning in modern America.The Beatles dived headfirst into psychedelia, Eastern religion, Eastern music … anything, everything … and they took us all with them, dancing and singing, into a world of new possibilities.And at the heart of those possibilities was the possibility of living our lives “in the moment,” as we liked to say. In the Here and Now.And now that tune has come down to this: the ring tone on some jerk’s cell phone.OK, I’d love to stop right here and leave the perfection of my outrage unmarred by an intrusion of reality, but there is one additional point I have to note.That cell phone was ringing, time and time again, as its owner and I – and a couple of hundred other innocent people – spent eight hours stuck in the Reno, Nev., airport, waiting for United to fix our plane. That eerie snatch of “Hey Jude” competed with the endless electronic clanging, ringing, hooting and hollering of the hundreds of video slot machines that fill the airport. Loudest of all were the dozens of “Wheel of Fortune” slots that featured an electronic “studio audience” shrieking “Wheel! Of! Fortune!!!” over and over and over again.Madness lurked in that wall of noise.And if ever there was a “Here and Now” where one did not want to be, it was right there and then. And what a pleasure it actually was to have “Hey Jude” playing in my mind.Hey Jude, don’t make it bad.Take a sad song and make it better.Thanks guys. Good advice.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com


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