I must admit, I’m a little tired of these invitations to “mindfulness”, “mindfulness” and other “mindfulness”: I’m very much afraid that too much “fullness” will harm plenitude and reduce our existence to a very bleak plain. One of my friends, who is nevertheless very friendly, a coach in her profession and cheerful by nature, recently reproached me for doing everything at once: eating while listening to the radio, climbing my stairs while listening to music, talking to her while throwing a few look at my text messages… “When I eat, I eat”, “when I go up the stairs, I go up the stairs”, she repeated to me to show me the path to rediscovered happiness, to a true presence to oneself, to others and to the world. “When I make love, I make love,” she was about to add, I believe.
Of course, I understand his arguments. But I still want to answer him: when I contemplate a landscape, I think of the possibility of the existence of God, to the very mystery of the beauty of the world. I think of what is not there and that does not prevent me from enjoying what is there. It is even to wonder if I am ever as present as when I begin to be absent. When I eat and listen to music, the beauty in my ears does not prevent me from enjoying what I eat. When I talk to my students, I think of my children, and when I come back to my students, I happen to be completely there, at least for a few seconds. When I write, I dream of playing tennis, and that doesn’t stop me from writing. When I swim, I think about what I wrote. Should I just swim when I swim? What a sad fish that would be!
Perhaps the presence of which the human animal is capable only gives itself through absence, tempted by absence, tinged with absence. Maybe it’s not me that’s scattered, but the human animal that’s not a fish. He can only swim in this kind of presence-absence, slip from one to the other, and perhaps this is even the secret of his quality of presence: if the moment of the return to presence is so strong, isn’t it because we’ve just been away? Full presence? We are probably too complicated for that: let us not be simplified… We are neither beasts nor gods. Much more mixed than them, more uncertain, more free in short, living as much in the present as in memory or in expectation, it is impossible for us to be fully “in the present”, in a consciousness that would in the moment. What if this is why we are fully human, fully alive?