Seeing past the moment

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Today's Zits:

Anthony Clayden writes:

It makes no sense to me (BrEng, and just old enough to be Jeremy's grandfather — supposing he really has been 16 years old all this time).

Google doesn't enlighten me. (A lyric from a band Lordchain??)

Is this some idiom that has passed me by? (Pierce seems to understand it as an idiom.)

This phrase seems mostly to come up in a certain range of religious contexts. Thus the pastor at Auburn Grace Community Church wrote:

Last month we focused on the baby in the Christmas manger, the God of the universe. That baby was the incarnate Son of God, full deity in bodily form. He could have come to condemn the prostitute, to ridicule the poor. He could have only fellowshipped with the prestigious or royalty. But He didn’t. He reached out to the woman outside the restaurant window, to the lady in need of gas to get home. His heart was touched by their need. I wish I was more like that, looking past people’s condition and wrong choices to care for their soul. I wish I saw past the moment and saw life as He did. The baby in the manger reminds me of the simplicity of life: Love God, love others, all others. It’s really that simple.

From a book called Do You Remember My Name?: When God Seems Distant:

Sometimes people will speak to you based on where they are — She, Rachel was in pain so she wanted it to be known. Pain had been her condition; it should not have been placed on her child. Unfortunately, this is the case of many today; because of their turmoil, many are made to suffer. If you allow it, of course; thank God Jacob did not. Thank God Jacob saw past the moment, the situation; he dared to see a future for his child.

From Born to Be Free: Discovering Christ's Power to Set You Free from a Painful Past:

Another key to turning away from sin at a heart level is to project what will happen when the sin runs its course. Ask Jesus to show you the end of the matter if you continue in the sin. Deception keeps us in the moment of a fantasy about what a particular sin will do for us But ask jesus to show you the outcome of the fantasy. Seeing past the moment to the end of the scenario when sin destroys us or the ones we love is a strong motivation for repentance.

In the line of song lyrics, there's e.g. "Beauty in the Broken", from Hyland, which Wikipedia describes as "an American Christian rock band originating from Minneapolis":

Let me hold you through it
Let me carry you
I know if feels you're at the end
But here your story's just beginning
I know your tomorrow
I know where you are
Though you can't see past the moment
I see beauty in the broken

And here's a "Daily Devotional about seeing past the moment" at

Maybe Jerry Scott is familiar with this phrase from church-going experience. Or maybe the phrase has moved into other circles. But I agree with Anthony Clayden in finding the linguistic issues in this strip more puzzling than usual.

Update — AntC in the comments points out that there was a relevant strip a few days ago:

And it's worth pointing out that "living in the moment" is regarded as a Good Thing in certain circles, while "seeing past the moment" is also a Good Thing, but among a different kind of people.


  1. Rube said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

    Huh. I'm Canadian, mid-fifties, not a church-goer, but I had no trouble getting this. Now that I think about it, though, I don' think that the expression "see past the moment" is common in my circles, but I think "living in the moment" is, and it's quite analogous.

    [(myl) My impression, though, is that in New Age/mindfulness circles, "living in the moment" is a Good Thing. I guess here the in-the-moment/past-the-moment opposition is cast as an adolescent/adult difference.]

  2. Aaron said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

    I'm an American in my 30s, never been to church in my life. I didn't have any trouble understanding it, though I didn't read it as something religious. To me it looked like the joke was that the teenaged son only lives in the present moment, while his dad, being more mature, has learned to think ahead to the future. Seeing through his dad's "eyes", the son gets a terrifying glimpse of what adulthood will be like, which is why his friend warns him off it!

  3. mcd said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

    American (Southeastern New England), and it sounds normal to me. I may recall it from a religious context, or just be extrapolating from "in the moment".

  4. Stephen said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

    Agreed. I'm in my fifties, American. I AM a churchgoer but have never heard the expression in a religious context. Made perfect sense to me for the reasons that Rube said. I laughed, anyway!

  5. Rube said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

    Yes, Aaron, that's exactly what I got.

  6. AntC said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

    Thanks Aaron, yes I agree that's it.

    There was a strip a few days ago about grandma visiting for the weekend. Jeremy was aghast that people plan that far ahead.

    I should have connected.

  7. hotsoup said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

    One more agreeing with Aaron.

  8. Ethan said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

    The expression seems unexceptional to me, although I can't place it in any specific context. "Look beyond the [current] moment" feels more familiar.

  9. San Fran Sam said,

    February 28, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

    I can see a religious connection. although not necessarily Western religion. It seems more zen-like than Christian.

    the first thing i though of with respect to "seeing past the moment" was the Supertramp song "Even in the Quietest Moments"

  10. Michael Watts said,

    March 1, 2014 @ 3:55 am

    American, twenties; no memory of ever hearing the phrase, but it didn't seem exceptional to me. It just seemed to refer to thinking about a future more remote than "right now" in a compositional way.

  11. Jay Lake said,

    March 1, 2014 @ 8:46 am

    American, 49 years old, non-churchgoer since early teens, and this made sense to me in a completely secular cultural context. In fact, I'm mildly surprised anyone finds this hard to interpret, as there's nothing particularly abstract or allegorical in the phrase "seeing past the moment".

    Of course, I have a 16-year-old in my home, so maybe I speak teen more than I am aware of.

  12. peterv said,

    March 1, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

    William Safire once famously mis-understood the phrase "in the moment", when Barbra Streisand used it to describe the tennis playing of Andre Agassi. ("He plays like a Zen master. It's very in the moment.") Safire did not, it seems, move in circles which used this phrase, so he thought it meant "up to date".

    He corrected himself here:

  13. Rodger C said,

    March 2, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

    If I may bend the thread a bit, did Safire ever correct his defense of himself against the people who criticized his comparison of unruly children to Apaches? I could only infer at the time, with a roll of the eyes, that he wasn't aware that Apaches still existed. Steinberg map syndrome, and hardly the first instance in his case, though one of the worst.

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