Forever -- is composed of Nows

by Emily Dickinson

Original Language English

Forever -- is composed of Nows --
'Tis not a different time --
Except for Infiniteness --
And Latitude of Home --

From this -- experienced Here --
Remove the Dates -- to These --
Let Months dissolve in further Months --
And Years -- exhale in Years --

Without Debate -- or Pause --
Or Celebrated Days --
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Domini's --

-- from This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, Edited by Ivan M. Granger

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Although Emily Dickinson is rightly praised as one of the great American poets, less commonly is she recognized as a mystic describing states of ecstatic awareness. If her poetry had been composed in India, she would have a place alongside the other great poet-saints, like Lalla and Mirabai.

Forever--is composed of Nows--

Forever, eternity, and, by extension, heaven... Whether we think of eternity as a place or time or even a state of awareness, we set it beyond our reach. We imagine that eternity must be attained, that it is something not here, but elsewhere, in the future. Thinking this way, forever is never found.

Emily Dickinson reveals an essential insight: Forever--is composed of Nows. The future is only an idea. When we reach it, it has become the present. Time is not composed of past, present, and future. It is composed of now, and now, and now. We have memories of the past and imaginings about the future, but we only ever experience now.

When we thoroughly understand this, we cease turning back to a remembered past or reaching out for a desired future. We finally come to rest in the present moment. And we are shocked to discover how little we have known of this world of Now, though it is our only home.

All the months and years of the past, the numberless days stretching into the future, all the experiences they hold, pour into the present and fill it. The present expands to hold all of reality along with our undivided selves. Each year, each moment of each year, is a vast blissful space awaiting discovery.

We don't need to look to the future or the past for Anno Domini, the Year of the Lord, we need to look profoundly into Now.

I will add that this is a particular problem with the framing of religious events using historical languageā€”from the coming of the Messiah or the Mahdi or Maitreya to the Resurrection or some future golden age. Regardless of what the calendar says, these events don't exist in the past or the future, they always exist right now.

When we look for our spiritual utopia in past history or future possibilities, we ignore the present and fail to find it. The more desperate we become to experience the promised paradise, the more we adopt an ends-justify-the-means mentality to force its historical advent. The terrible irony is that this approach tends to create a hellish present that prevents us from experiencing the heaven we seek.

When we are truly ready to discover our Forever, we will stop our cruelties and give up the agony that drives them. We will sit, become quiet, and finally know Anno Domini--right now.

No different Our Years would be
From Anno Domini's--

Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry
More Books >>

Forever -- is composed