After several hours of deep immersion in a scene I was writing recently, I needed a break and, as I often do, adjourned to one of my favorite pubs for some libation, relaxation, music, and conversation. Once seated and sipping, I unwrapped one of the cigars that I keep to just chew on in our smokeless state and put the cellophane on the table. Almost immediately a young man I had never before seen suddenly plopped into the chair next to me at my table.
“Hi, there!” I smiled, but he barely looked at me before snatching up the discarded wrapper and leaving without a word.
I wasn’t too nonplussed. I’d caught a quick look in his eyes. It has been a while, but I’ve seen that off-plane look before. He was definitely living in a different dimension that night, if not more permanently. I didn’t think anything of it. He seemed harmless enough.
When I went to the bar for a refill, I got a better look at him seated at a table near the door. He was about mid-twenties, dressed in jeans and a military surplus field jacket. His blond hair was fairly long, tied back in a ponytail, and the water ring his beer glass had made on the table seemingly preoccupied him. Yes. As a child of the ’60s, I had definitely seen his ancestors. I went back to my table to listen.
I was trying to pay attention to the performers, but my writing muse would not leave me alone, however, and despite the good music, I was constantly pulling out my iPhone to take notes on revisions of what I had already spent hours crafting and jotting down ideas for other pieces. I had hoped to catch the second set of one young man in particular who would finish the evening’s entertainment, but I finally just had to go home and write. I rose to pay my tab.
The bartender/owner of the establishment had just handed me my tab when the wild-eyed young man from earlier approached and looked at me directly.
“But, if the self-convinced person leaves, how will we know what NOW means?” he demanded.
Anxiously he repeated: “If the self-convinced person leaves, how will we know what NOW means?”
“OK, ,” (I didn’t catch the name) said the barkeep, “You need to leave now.”
“Oh, he’s fine,” I assured him. “Not a problem.”
Turning back to my new friend, I said what came to mind: “We all have to find out on our own anyway, I guess.”
With that the young man turned and went back to his seat. He didn’t even look up at me when I walked past him and out the door. All the way home I could only think that I needed to get back to my keyboard so that I could write down his question for future contemplation. It was cold and I didn’t want to take off my gloves to fumble for my phone while driving, or I would probably have let Siri take a note for me.
What an intriguing question! I have been thinking about not only his needing to know what “Now” is but also why he identified me, I assume, as a “self-convinced person,” and just what that, too, means.
What does it mean to be “self-convinced”? Did he mean self-confident? Self-assured? Or is a self-convinced person also self-deceived?
I have tried to be confident in myself and all that description might entail. I try to be open to all things, a student of all things. I attempt to educate myself. I have always prided myself on my independence of spirit, at least. When I read Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” as a young person and then taught the essay for many years, I especially liked—and still do—his admonition to “Trust thyself. Every heart beats to that iron string.” I believe that I even carry myself somewhat with an air of self-confidence (and that alone has probably gotten me out of some precarious situations in places I most likely shouldn’t have been). How my new acquaintance perceived me is a puzzle with no answer.
And what does “Now” mean? Does only someone who is confident in him or herself truly understand the moment? Is “Now” only a moment? What is a moment in Time? I think I’ll leave this discussion for another essay. You can try to define Now and Time on your own at this point. I can provide a bit of a suggestion, perhaps.
I’ll go back to Emerson. “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. …. Insist on yourself; never imitate. …. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” Yes, I’m cutting and pasting, but I encourage you to read the entire essay.
I think I am, as my young challenger seemed to indicate, self-convinced. I have been beaten down by the world and by nature, but I have taken each blow, no matter how staggering, and gotten back up off of the mat. Sometimes I turn the other cheek and get knocked down again, but you’d better believe that I continue to give as good as I get. Unfortunately, the other fellow sometimes carries a scythe, and I am unarmed against it. But this is Now. I hope that final battle comes later.