The Present, a Gift Taken for Granted

by Rukmini Ravi.  Winner, One Book One College Essay Contest.

Many scriptures, and religious beliefs, have touched on the importance of living in the present – but it is up to us to make the conscientious decision from within, regarding whether we want to heed this advice or not. One such work of literature that embodies the main ideals of living in the present is the “One Book, One College” graphic novel Daytripper. The concept of living in the moment is revealed as the authors Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá relay sequences including times when Brás, the protagonist, experiences the innocence of childhood and the frivolity of young adulthood. Brás’ ability to live in the moment at certain points of his life can be related to the texts and concepts of eastern religions, such as the Bhagavad Gita and the philosophies of Zen Buddhism. He shows us that we are capable of living in the present, and that when we aren’t investing our time in the moment, we truly aren’t “living.”

From our own childhood experiences, we know that children are oblivious to the concept of aging or even death, children speak their minds, and children do what they want, even if they  are reprimanded for it. The authors of Daytripper hint at the way we lose touch with the concept of “living in the moment” as we grow older. When we are children, we don’t do anything else but live in the moment, but when we grow older, we do everything else but live in the moment. While children enjoy the landscape of the present time, adults notoriously and busily plan for the future and cry about wanting to be young again. This way of life is prevalent in our society and is further demonstrated in a literary and visual form in Chapter Five of Daytripper, when Brás is just 11 years old.

The chapter shows Brás and his cousins chasing after birds named Angolas, eating meals with the elders of the family, playing hide-and-seek, and listening to the story of how Brás got the nickname of “little miracle.”

“Brás didn’t remember when it started but for years they would go to the countryside to visit his grandparents at their small ranch. Every other weekend they’d pack their car and drive for two hours. Not a long drive at all…but for the kids, it was always a great adventure…full of the strangest creatures: family.”   This scene portrays the joy and happiness the kids feel, and how children can transform what can be considered dull in the eyes of an adult  into a portal of mystery and fantasy. However, in the midst of the kids who are living in the moment, there is one person who blatantly fails to do so: Brás’ father Benedito. When Brás asks his father a question about why he can’t use the toilet inside in the house on the ranch like any other curious child would, Benedito is grouchy, and aloof, as shown by this quotation: “’The water we use in the house comes from the well […] We have to wait until the well is full, which takes a while, so we can’t go wasting water all the time’”  Brás’ father serves as a magnified representative for all of us who aren’t kids anymore – everything just is, and remains so, with no creative transformation affecting anything around us, contrary to what occurs via a kid’s imagination.

An ancient Hindu scripture, known as The Bhagavad Gita, is a partition verse from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. In this scripture, the cow herder, Krishna, gives advice to the prince Arjuna, before he goes to war, and some of the advice he gives Arjuna revolves around living in the moment. As stated in the Gita by Krishna in Chapter 2, verse 60, “Even the wisest man’s mind is easily carried away by his excited senses – which have enormous power to enslave his mind” (Gita). This quotation beautifully summarizes what occurs in our daily lives, as well as the dynamic between and respective character traits of Brás and Benedito. While Brás is a kid, his mind is jumping from place to place, while Benedito’s mind is “enslaving” him to think like a boring man, lacking sprightliness and spontaneity. These characteristics that Krishna describes in the quotation above are also equally applicable to every one of us – as we grow older, we condition our minds to plan things and create routines, but while we are young, our minds are free and liberated from most of the self-inflicted responsibilities that arise when we become adults.

Another segment of Daytripper that we can learn from, with regards to how to live in the moment, is seen in Chapter Two. This chapter takes place when Brás is vacationing with his best friend, Jorge, and the two are 21 years old. Some of the notable scenes in this chapter of their lives, include when Jorge doesn’t take a photograph of the scenery. As stated in the dialogue between Brás and Jorge in Chapter Five of Daytripper,

’You’re not gonna take a picture of this?’

‘This is too big for a photograph. Life is good, dude’” (Bá and Moon 36). As simple and uncomplicated as this quote sounds, it symbolizes the epitome of living in the moment, which is absorbing all around you while at a certain place, not worrying about capturing the moment into something tangible. Clearly, this scene has become something many of us would probably want to emulate, given the number of photo-sharing and social media applications provided at our very fingertips. What this scene teaches us is that while the act of sharing memories virtually may provide some of us with unforeseen pleasure, we must be open to just enjoying life for the sake of life itself – not for the moment when you will post a photo, because by that time, the adventure that was the present, is now the past. Thus, this very scene in Daytripper catches something larger than life, which is the concept of living life itself, and the insurmountable happiness that can be derived from sheer simplicity.

Another religion that entails practices of “living in the moment” is Zen Buddhism. As stated by Geoffrey D. Falk in Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment, “First of all, one hopes to save others from the sorrow inherent in throwing their lives away […] Even the most elementary bodhisattva vow, for the liberation of others from suffering, would leave one with no moral choice but to do one’s part in that” (Falk). This quotation symbolizes the liberation that can be felt by all of us, if we just decide to live in the present. It provides us with a “no strings attached” perspective to what we know as living the moment. If we were to forget all about the worries that are plaguing us, regarding the past and the future, there would be no more constraints, and half of our problems would probably vanish. This is the goal of the “bodhisattva,” who is an enlightened, learned, and knowledgeable messenger in the realm of Zen Buddhism. The bodhisattva spreads and teaches inspirational techniques to his/her disciples, including ways to live in the moment. Once the bodhisattva bestows his/her knowledge upon us, we can relay the message to others. The message infinitely continues in order to prolong spiritual growth in human beings. This can be related to Daytripper, as Jorge serves as a bodhisattva, in a sense, to Brás. While the two are vacationing as 21-year-olds, many of us would assume that the chapter would only encompass subjects of utter frivolity, and ironically enough, this chapter is one of the deepest ones. Jorge is a messenger to Brás, telling him to stop wasting time and live in the moment, a motto that many of us should adopt.

Authors Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá organize Daytripper in a randomized fashion, where the protagonist obituary writer Brás’ experiences are not measured chronologically, but rather by special moments. The structure of the book, thus, reinforces the concept of living in the moment, as handpicked moments from Brás’ life are relayed in the novel, both good and bad, that define him as a person; regardless of whether the moment is good or bad, Brás immerses himself in it, or at least tries to, which is something that most of us should learn to do, as we are nonexistent in the future and the past, but alive and breathing in the present moment.  From Brás’ childhood memories on his family’s ranch, to his carefree adventures with his best friend, Jorge, as a 21-year-old, Brás’ life in many ways is nothing but living in the moment, something which many of us seek to emulate. In addition, after reading many literary works and learning about different religions such as Zen Buddhism, I have derived many different takes on what living in the moment actually means. While initially I thought it was just a phrase cloaked in several far-fetched sub-colloquialisms, I now realize the true implications of it, especially after being given the chance to route this concept back to the graphic novel Daytripper. Not only is living in the moment seen in the simplest of things, it can be practiced anywhere!

 

Works Cited

Bá, Gabriel, and Fabió Moon. Daytripper. Broadway: DC Comics, 2011. Print.

Bhagavad Gita. Print.

 

 

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This entry was published on May 6, 2015 at 5:58 am and is filed under base line tales, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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