Make the Best of Now

November 30, 2013

Most of our time goes in reflecting on the past and planning (or worrying) for the future. This stops us from making the most of our present time. What can we do to change this? I recently read a beautiful story by Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy that has profound lessons for us. In short, the story goes like this:

A king was looking for answers to his three questions: when is the tight time to do something; who are the right persons to be with; and what is the most important thing to do?

He decided to ask a hermit, well known for his wisdom. The hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. The king greeted and asked his questions. The hermit continued digging. As the hermit was looking tired, the king offered to help. He took the spade from the hermit and started digging while the hermit rested. After a while, the king repeated his questions. The hermit still gave no answer. The king worked the whole day. As the day ended, a man approached them. He was bleeding profusely. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King and the hermit brought him in the hut, washed and dressed his wound till the bleeding stopped. The man felt better and slept. The king was also very tired after the whole day of digging. He went to sleep as well. When he awoke in the morning, the man whose life he had saved expressed his gratefulness. The king was surprised when the man confessed, “I had vowed to kill you in revenge as you executed my brother. I knew you had gone alone to meet the hermit. I wanted to kill you on your way back. When you did not return, I came looking for you but your bodyguards recognized and wounded me. I would have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. You have saved my life. Please forgive me.” The king was happy to have converted an enemy into a friend.

The hermit told the king you have your answers now, “If you had not stayed to help me in digging yesterday this man would have attacked you. So the most important time was when you were digging. I was the most important man at the moment and to do me good was your most important business. Later, when this man came to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him. If you had not dressed his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business.

The lessons are clear. There is only one time that is important- Now! It is the only time when we can do something. The most important person is the one we are with, in a given moment. We can only do something for him, and not others, at that moment. And the most important affair is to do him good. I would prefer to call it Make the Best of Now attitude that we all should strive for.