Thomas Moore has a new book out.
And that’s good.
It gives me a peg (newspaper lingo for “an excuse”) to write about a man I’ve admired for many years.
If I told you Thomas More, the 16th-century author of "Utopia," was a man for all seasons, you’d say I was master of the obvious. But I’m talking about Thomas double-O Moore, an American author and former monk. And the seasons he mans are pain, joy, fear, desire — in short, seasons of the heart.
His most recent book, “A Religion of One’s Own" (Avery, $17), is about finding a spiritual path through the marshes and thickets of the secular world. Like his other books, it is about finding and nurturing our souls.
I heard him speak about the book in a West Coast bookstore not long ago. I liked what he had to say that night. I also liked the way he said it.
Moore has mastered the art of living in the present moment. His mind doesn’t race ahead or drift off. He listens attentively, monitors his emotions and remains open to any and all spontaneous impressions that come his way.
That ability, often associated with Buddhism, is the polar opposite of a performance. A performance is canned, prepackaged. Living in the moment is about being aware.
That may also sound like being self-conscious, but it’s not.
Self-conscious people posture. They screen their reactions, then strike a pose.
People who live in the moment react immediately and honestly. They think life’s too short for poses. In fact, they think life is barely long enough for sincerity.
I hope this isn’t overreaching, but when I read the scriptures, I see that quality in Jesus. He didn’t posture. He didn’t fret about the morrow. He embraced the moment. He was 100 percent authentic and aware of everything around him.
And I’ve known others with that same gift.
When poet William Stafford would answer a question, he’d often include a play-by-play of his feelings as he felt them.
“You maybe noticed I just grimaced,” he’d say. Or, “Your comment sent a chill through me. Did you see me shiver?”
That’s a man living in the moment.
After Moore’s presentation at the bookstore, I went up to get a book signed. I told him I am a religion columnist and believe many things he said. But, I said, my readers who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like it when I am able to find a source in Mormonism for the things that writers in other faiths had to say.
He said, for him, religious truth rounded into a whole at some point. And he told me he thought people who sought ways to see their own religious traditions with fresh eyes and new perspective were doing a good work.
“But it does take imagination,” he said, handing my book to me. The inscription inside was his reaction to the very things I had said to him while he was signing it.
“For Jerry,” he’d written. “Be strong. We need you.”
In that moment, I vowed to try harder to live in the moment.
In fact, in my moment with Thomas Moore, it seemed like the only way to live.