Friday, September 18, 2009

Is your "Now" short or long?

The present has a flighty reputation. Ephemeral, too surreal to hold any substance, hard for us to "be" in. It's not heavy like the past we trawl through, understanding at our leisure. It's not tense like the future we fearfully and excitedly anticipate. It's "Now" - a phenomenon almost too quick for us to grasp it's bridge and it's duality. Now, this moment that isn't just a moment, is a tantalising space, irrevocably shaped by the past and profoundly pregnant with the future.

In one of his best expressions, the essay: "The Big Here and The Long Now", Brian Eno proposed that we have the choice of engaging with a "Long Now" or "Short Nows".

He wrote:
"The longer your sense of Now, the more past and future it includes. It’s ironic that, at a time when humankind is at a peak of its technical powers, able to create huge global changes that will echo down the centuries, most of our social systems seem geared to increasingly short nows. Huge industries feel pressure to plan for the bottom line and the next shareholders’ meeting. Politicians feel forced to perform for the next election or opinion poll. The media attract bigger audiences by spurring instant and heated reactions to ‘human interest’ stories while overlooking longer-term issues – the real human interest."

This essay was first published by the Long Now Foundation,, of which Eno is a Board Member and contributor to the iconic "Clock of the Long Now" project.

You can read the full essay at:

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