“Attention! Here and Now.”

Do you know why I chose the title I chose?

It’s from a book by Aldous Huxley called Island. It was one of his last works, if not his last, that he wrote before he died.

Although not considered his most well-known books, it is widely considered one of his most important, as it was, indeed, written towards the end of his life, therefore, being the conclusion to a long, curious, journey of self and human psychological discovery.

But why did I use that title for this post?

That’s because on the Island of Pala, in which the book takes place on, there are little birds, Mynahs, flying around trained to speak only a few phrases, one of them being “Here and now” and “Attention!”.

But then you may ask, why would they be trained to say that?

That’s because, on the Island of Pala, they have a different life philosophy. They don’t believe you should work for 60 years, retire, then die. They don’t believe you should worry about what you should do tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. They don’t believe that buying the “latest and greatest gadget” is the key to life fulfillment.

No. They believe, on this island, that the key to life fulfillment is found via a more easternized philosophy: Live in the moment, because this moment is the only that is real. 

And I want to share a paragraph from the book that really hits home for me in that I just get it; what they’re saying; what Huxley is trying to say.

And here it is, and it’s a bit long:

Open your eyes again and look at Nataraja [a statue similar to that of Kali] up there on the altar. Look closely. In his upper right hand, as you’ve already seen, he holds the drum that calls the world into existence and in his upper left hand he carries the destroying fire. Life and death, order and disintegration, impartially.

But now look at Shiva’s [still referring to the same statue] other pair of hands. The lower right hand is raised and the palm is turned outwards. What does that gesture signify? It signifies ‘Don’t be afraid; it’s All Right.’ But how can anyone in his senses fail to be afraid? How can anyone pretend that evil and suffering are all right, when it’s so obvious that they’re all wrong?

Nataraja has the answer. Look now at his lower left hand. He’s using it to point down at his feet. And what are his feet doing? Look closely and you’ll see that the right foot is planted squarely on a horrible little subhuman creature—the demon, Muyalaka. A dwarf, but immensely powerful in his malignity, Muyalaka is the embodiment of ignorance, the manifestation of greedy, possessive self-hood.

Stamp on him! Break his back! And that’s precisely what Nataraja is doing. Trampling the little monster down under his right foot. But notice that it isn’t this trampling right foot that he points his finger, it’s at the left foot, the foot that , as he dances, he’s in the act of raising from the ground. And why does he point at it? Why? That lifted foot, the dancing defiance of the force of gravity—it’s the symbol of release, of moksha [a psychadellic drug used in Pala], of liberation.

Nataraja dances in all the worlds at once.

Now, you may have got something from that passage, but let me share what I got from it.

What it means to me is this. In his upper hands, or more so referring to the universe itself, you have order and chaos; good and evil; life and death. And below that is his other hands, one of which is holding a palm out signifying you to stop; to pay attention. It’s for you to recognize that this is the way the world is, a world of not just good, but not just evil, but a balance.

Then you see his left hand pointing down to his feet. His right foot is crushing the demon that tries to bring malevolence into his life, to destroy the balance between chaos and order.

But like the book points out, he is not pointing to his right foot, but rather his left. And his left foot is raised up, raised high above the ground to which you realize, he’s dancing. He dances in the moment, despite everything, the knowledge of the way the world is, and from that he is free.

He lives “here and now”, in the moment, dancing. And from that, he unintentionally or even intentionally, crushes the demon, fights back against the embodiment of evil.

And finally you realize, it is the statue, the representation of one’s self, us, that transcends all of this. And that’s who you are, we are.

All of us are, like in this book, Nataraja. We are the embodiment of the individual that lives between chaos and order.

But we can only “stamp out the demons” if we do one thing:

Stop. Pay attention, and dance, here and now.

thanks for reading,