“Life is short.”
– Woman in Starbucks
This is going to be a bit more reflective and sentimental, so if you don’t have time for that sort of thing, you may leave it off.
Life is short. This is one of those things that throughout the course of my life I’ve heard said when people encourage others to make personal changes, to take risks, to open up, to find forgiveness, and sometimes to justify absolutely terrible and irresponsible decisions. We have all of these funny little mantras that we use every day and express to one another and often don’t really consider the weight of.
We also don’t often remember the original purpose. Phrases like “Life is short” may be helpful to the sort of person to whom change is a fearful thing, or maybe put off the right decisions and actions because they, in the back of their mind, believe there will always be time to mend hurt feelings, or make a call that will make someones day. It’s effect could clearly be seen to those growing up in a more rigid societal climate where propriety and cultural obligation meant more in western culture. And maybe that was the message they needed to hear at the moment.
I think now is a good time to consider that certain phrases, pieces of advice, and things that strike true to a generation and become a phrase that invokes change may just be the thing that those people at that time needed to hear. We all know that telling someone “Just go for it!” will at one time be excellent advice to jump into new joy, or it could be terrible advice to bring terror, pain, and evil things.
Perhaps the shortness of life has played it’s role, and may now leave stage. It has become perhaps a little too popular in the younger and older generation to use this idea as license to do all manner of selfish and dangerous things that hurt themselves in the long run. It has helped us justify the denying of moral and ethical truths about life simply because we attach them to the old world way of doing things. It is license for substance abuse, for lack of perseverance in difficult relationship issues and to not take care of your body, or take care of others. I know that there are times when this is good advice, but there are times when it is not.
There is an opposite and in my experience, actually more true possibility. I haven’t lived all that long on this earth and am a considerably young man, and as I have grown up and become more aware of who I am and who I want to be, (without trying to sound ungrateful or unhappy), I find that life tends to go on a bit.
In fact there are days I find it to be a bit long-winded. If we’re honest isn’t that the case? Anyone who has spent an afternoon waiting at an airport with no spending money, reading material or a dead cell phone can tell you that things tend to drag out when you’re not doing anything. People will also tell you that time flies when you’re having fun. Somewhere between airport afternoons and a day at an amusement park there is a middle ground. This is where I find myself.
I find that if you look at each moment, if you are really where you are when it is happening, if you are trying to remember what happens every second if you look a day in the face and ask it to tell you all about itself and find yourself running into the next, then life doesn’t seem so short. If you look into a sunrise in the morning and try and count every shade of orange, or maybe if you walk with the one you love and while listening to every word she says look at her hair and note the exact texture, or her clothes or what the sky is doing or what the trees look like, if it’s evening or morning or the consistency of the mood and attachment between you. If you write everything down mentally and soak it in and really truly know any bit of your own life, you will find that it is hard to remember everything from yesterday, from the last week or month, and that one or two years ago seems like a lifetime away. But what do I know, I’m just a young man.
People say they look back on their lives in their twilight years and see that life simply went so fast, that they spent too much time doing this or that and not enough time on something else. They have all these regrets about time spent and places never ventured, and these are legitimate. But I know this, they remember the big things, and the time in between seems like a blur because their was so much in it, granted they were watching. Every minute you may have had your own mental dialogue, and for me, I think it’s okay that a fair amount of my life I’ve spent getting to know myself as well as I can. I don’t imagine regretting that decision. I kind of like the person I’ve come to know.
See, I could write a book about what happens to me between breakfast and my lunch break. I’ve had mornings that contain such intense uncontrollable anxieties that a prayer will suddenly dispel by lunch and change the rest of my day. The amount of running commentary in my mind that is freed from it’s prison in just a few hours could fill many volumes. On a Sunday afternoon I could have a pleasant lunch, get drowsy, say something rude, have an argument, time alone, and have it rectified by dinner. Setting. Time. Place. Conflict to be overcome. Love. Romance. Separation. Unrequited affection. Rising action. Then a reconciliation and two lovers reunited again feeling that nothing could ever come between them. All the elements of excellent storytelling on any day of the year.
I am twenty-six years old and I know this about life. That if I get to the end of my life and find that I can’t remember much between the big details about what I’ve done and where I’ve been it won’t be because nothing happened. It will be because my life has simply been so full of the comical, the dramatic, the wonderful, endless amounts of excellent stories and friendships and triumphs and self-destruction, faith and love, lost and found, that it would simply be impossible for the human mind to contain it all. Life is wonderfully and almost excessively long.
Life is long. That is my mantra, my message for our generation. If there is something to be changed, change it now because no one wants to realize that forty of their eighty years were spent hating someone. Or living dishonestly. Or not taking time to breathe (because you do have the time), or not being reconciled to family. In fact, I think it is more important that we act now not because life is short, but because it is so very epically, fantastically, radically, expansively, and exquisitely long. Like any tapestry with countless threads, beautiful because it is complex, wonderful because of the tedious care of the craftsman, and extraordinary because of how commonplace the extraordinary occurs.