this tale, originally posted on december 28, 2001, outlines an easy way to quit smoking and stay quit forever, using techniques we all use every day.

what time is it?

2009 January 21

did you ever go to one of those websites where they have a little digital clock that tells you what time it was when you got to the site? pretty amazing, until you realize that all they're doing is sending a message to your computer that asks your computer's internal clock what time it is and then prints the answer out in the form of a clock when it draws the page in your browser window. the other thing about those little digital clocks is that they're always wrong. it's true. by the time you look at them (in fact, by the time the page is drawn in your browser window), they're showing you what time it used to be, not what time it actually is.

well, i can do much better than that; i can tell you what time it actually is. and it doesn't matter what time zone you're in. doesn't matter what country, or even what hemisphere. doesn't matter if it's day or night. doesn't matter if you're on daylight savings time, or if you've never even heard of daylight savings time. and it doesn't matter if you just got here, or if you've read all the way through to the end of this post and then come back up here. it's always right. it always shows you the exact time when you're looking at it, no matter what it says on your computer's clock, on your kitchen clock, or on the atomic clock in boulder. are you ready? are you ready for me to tell you exactly what time it is wherever you are? ok - here we go - the exact time, wherever you are, is:

now.

think about it: whenever you look at that word up there, it will always be reflecting the exact time that you're looking at it. we've come up with an elaborate set of conventions to synchronize our activities ("i'll meet you at 6 o'clock on tuesday") or to make sense out of recurring patterns in nature ("boy, i can't wait til spring!" or "tomorrow's another day"), but we seem to forget that that's all they are: conventions. if you doubt this, maybe you can describe to me what february 17th looks like (not a particular february 17th, just february 17th). or what 6 o'clock on tuesday feels like. but you can't, can you? of course not; those are just conventions, they don't tell us anything about reality.

we've probably all heard the old saying, "there's no time like the present". the reality is that there is no time but the present. the past is gone; anything that happened before now is set in stone. done. finished. you can't change it. why? because you can't act in the past. you can't "do" anything there.

and the future is just a fantasy. what if you die right in the middle of reading this sentence? then this sentence never existed for you, except as something you might have read in some unknown "future" (which has now ceased to exist for you) - and forget about doing anything you were planning to do "tomorrow"; there is no tomorrow. you were dead two sentences ago.

very few of us try to kid ourselves about the past; we all pretty much agree that what's done is done, and it can't be changed. but we still try to kid ourselves about the future: "i'll talk to her tomorrow." "i'll quit smoking after the holidays." "i'll start that program next week." "i'll see them the next time they're in town." these all sound like perectly reasonable statements, don't they? but they're all based on doing the impossible. they're all based on the idea that you can "do" something, anything, in "the future". but you can't.

why not? because the time of action, the time of doing is now. have you ever told someone, "i'll have to take care of that later; i'm busy right now"? sure you have. probably hundreds of times. and if you don't die before then, and nothing more urgent comes up, you probably will take care of that "later". but what time will it be when you're actually "taking care of it"? when you're actually "doing" it? the same time it always is whenever you're doing anything: now. whenever you're reading, it's "now". whenever you're working, it's "now". whenever you're sleeping, eating, breathing, talking; whenever you're "doing", it's "now". it can't be any other time. it's always now.

so, if you want to quit smoking forever, it's easy; whenever you get an urge, just tell yourself, "i'll smoke later." or, "i'll smoke tomorrow." or even, "i'll have that cigarette next week."

just don't smoke now.

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3 responses leave one →
  1. 2004 August 19
    Marvel permalink

    Very Zen my friend. And very true. I'm so glad I'm not smoking now.

  2. 2008 October 7
    Stuart permalink

    I would like to thank you for this and all the other tales. I read them all before I started my quit and I re-read them (or some of them) whenever I need to reconfirm my own thoughts.

    I am now on day 25 - and these tales have helped me get "my head in the right place". Thanks again.

  3. 2009 January 21

    note: the comments above were left on the original tale at the date and time indicated.

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