Having the conviction there is a tomorrow is itself perfectly digestible. On the other hand leaving something undone until tomorrow presents an entirely different model. I recall being dismayed by my late mother’s casual discharge “until tomorrow” of what I thought was a pressing need. Tomorrow was never exactly defined. The protraction – indecorous in my opinion – seemed to me to taint the organization of the universe. What if it never got done? Then what?
Diluting this anxiety is the adage, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today“. Though broad in scope it nonetheless appears grounded in a semi-religious fundamental, right up there with, “Do onto others…” and not telling lies.
Diligence—carefulness and persistent effort or work—is one of the seven heavenly virtues. It is indicative of a work ethic, the belief that work is good in itself.
Nor is that element of order I mentioned to be ignored. Indeed I frequently calculated the performance of my day by first disposing of those matters which, though perhaps not urgent, were I thought best disposed of immediately to avoid the indecency of lingering imperative or obligation. In the scheme of things the assessment was not how vital something was but rather merely to clear the air of contaminants the same way one brushes aside annoying flies or gnats. In that respect it was an egalitarian conviction, equating need with time of arrival, first in line so to speak. Nor similarly was the treatment of the matter at hand any different than that of another. If it were on the table as something to be done, it was handled like everything else. I have long aspired to the theory that the test of a man is in what he does and how he does it on any level, big or small. In short detail and assiduity is equally relevant to everything.
Lest you imagine the performance of matters of less compelling value distorted the need to attend to urgent affairs, the answer is no. Priorities were recognized but only at the cost of modest delay and certainly never with an outright decision to put off until tomorrow what might still be accomplished before the next sunrise. Whatever the circumstances the overriding plot was never to put off until tomorrow.
The abhorrence of tomorrow highlights another theme; that is, an unparalleled belief in the depth and delight of the present. So great is the influence of currency that the callous decision to eject something into another sphere is perceived as a wasteful though unwitting deprivation. Merely saying “tomorrow will be a good day” is far from capturing any assurance or substance. If you want to be certain about such a prediction of favour, perhaps now is the time to look into it? Not only will we then know for certain, but we’ll have removed any apprehension.
Putting off until tomorrow was to my mind akin to saying, “Don’t worry, it’ll get done” – something I considered an absurd observation. First, by whom exactly? And second, when exactly? The assertion quickly descended to a meaningless slight designed to impoverish one’s nighttime dreams. Even if one were to have cavalierly suggested it would get done tomorrow, that is a demonstrable presumption, as though suddenly one were enabled by mere conjecture to accomplish what can only be done by effort. And more importantly there remained the unaddressed question, by whom will it be done?
It might understandably appear that the absorption in the immediacy of the present disappears with age. In fact it is otherwise. The collateral of my diminished employment is to heighten the consequence of what remains before me. The process has enlarged. Not only the dimensions of what I do but also the colour, brilliance and significance, further enabling me to clarify and define those features. No doubt there has been a commensurate reduction of certain other outlying features, constituents which by design, resolve, admission or evolution no longer retain either attraction or purpose. This synthesis or distillation is not uncommon in the development of anything, whether a product (in the commercial sense) or a thought or performance (in the personal sense). It’s part of the overall refinement of life.
The only meaningful way to abandon something until tomorrow is to identify it as something which is beyond one’s capacity to control. The lack of control may arise because it concerns what someone else must do; or, it may involve a context which has not yet unfolded. The dismissal until tomorrow is in that instance a dismissal until whenever. it is clearly something which, if it happens, will only be tomorrow or maybe never. What is significant about the distinction is obviously that there is nothing you can do about it. In the meantime Nature curiously hands us only what can be done now. Nature recognizes our limits and serves us what is within our bounds to accomplish. We must therefore learn to distance ourselves from what needn’t be done today, while doing what does need to be done today, thereby fulfilling our prescription of activity and avoiding confounding inactivity with irrelevance. The nest will be built; the chicks will be raised; the trees and flowers shall bloom. So too shall we.