There’s an old story told by Reb Chanoch Henich of Alexander.
There was once a fellow who was so very forgetful. Indeed, his memory was so short that when he awoke each morning, he could not remember where he had laid his clothes the night before. Things got so bad for him that he could not fall asleep, so great was his nervousness about finding his things upon waking. One evening, however, he hit on a great idea.Taking a pencil and paper, he wrote down exactly where he had placed each item of clothing. Placing his notes on the nightstand, by his bed, he quickly feel asleep, confident that he would find everything just perfectly in the morning.
And indeed he did. He woke up, took the notes form this nightstand, and read off each item in turn: pants—on chair back; and there they were. He put them on. ‘Shirt—on bed post; and there it was. He put it on. Hat—on desk; and there it sat. He placed it on his head. In a few minutes the fellow was completely dressed. But suddenly a great dread came upon him.
‘Yes, yes,’ he said aloud. ‘Here are my pants, my shirt, and my cap; but where am I?’ He looked and looked and looked, but he could find himself nowhere! Reb Chanoch Henich paused for a moment and then concluded ‘And that is how it is with each of us as well.”
Source | Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Hasidic Tales
(Skylight Paths, 2004) page 191
PONDER AND CONSIDER
What is this story getting at? Think about it: where am I? Where are you, indeed? I’m standing here! And you’re sitting in this chair, of course! It’s obvious, isn’t it? Or is it really that obvious? At some point, especially if I keep droning on, you may look at your watch and say ‘What time is it? When does this end, anyway? I wonder what there will be to eat when this is over?’ If you can catch yourself at that very moment, then where are you? Are you really still here? Or have you actually gotten lost in time? I don’t mean time-travelling, I mean: have you suddenly looked at your watch and mentally left this moment in favor of some other, future moment?
Similarly, you could be sitting here listening to me, and suddenly you remember that you forgot to return an important email from yesterday, or you remember a fight you had with a family member last week, and you’re feeling bad about it. Again, are you really here, or are you now lost in the past? In either case, have you actually left the chair? Physically, of course not. But in every other sense—you have left this place. You’re gone. You’re missing this moment, the only moment that’s really happening!