"Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out." --Oliver Wendell Holmes
"God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well." --Voltaire
"Never forget that you must die; that death will come sooner than you expect... God has written the letters of death upon your hands." -- J. Furniss
How silly we all are… I mean, really!
We run here, and we run there. We fret over this bill and that line… We worry about Friday’s change of plans and what so-and-so supposedly said about so-and-so…
It’s so easy to become nearsighted, isn’t it?
On our Facebook community, I posted a quote from the timeless, bestselling novel Tuesdays with Morrie, and it goes like this: “Put a bird on your shoulder. That's what the Buddhists do. Just imagine a little bird on your shoulder and every day you say, ‘Is this the day I'm going die, little bird? Am I leading the life I want to lead? Am I the person that I want to be?’ If we accept the fact that we can die at any time, we'd lead our lives differently. So everyday you say, ‘Is this the day?’” Apparently Morrie Schwartz’s powerful paraphrasing of the Buddhist proverb touched many people.
It got me to thinking, why can’t we somehow become more mindful in every moment, whether it’s a challenging one or a peaceful one? I mean, in the scheme of life, when we look over our shoulders, we rarely remember EVERY little detail, but what we DO remember is how we felt.
I can’t tell you all the nitty-gritty details of what I was specifically doing to allow myself such pain and difficulty over the years: the faces have blurred, the stories have been washed away by the current of time, and the many words and circumstances have disappeared as storm clouds do after the rain. What I do remember is how I felt… and that wasn’t so good...
I got nearsighted!
I was so focused on the minutia of the daily grind, and I was so content on keeping score and proving myself to near strangers that I was forgetting what a gift this fleeting life really is…
I was young.
I was stupid.
I was squandering my life!
So what did I learn from Morrie? What have I learned since becoming a student of life? I’ve come to understand since those difficult years that life is truly what you make it, and that it is a fleeting experience you only have once. All the things we see, love, touch, taste, feel, and possess are TRANSIENT! The way we look, our jobs, our children, our spouse, our minds… We WILL lose them all.
As my father puts it so bluntly, “No one gets out of this alive.” And it’s so true... Although I prefer to put a more positive spin on his catch phrase…
So now I open my eyes in the morning… I take a deep breath… I place one foot in front of the other, and I walk about seeking joy, forgiveness, love, and enlightenment… And I ask, “Is this the day, little bird? Is this it?”
It’s a daily struggle, and of the hardest kind, to keep our eyes and minds focused on the bigger picture. But if we are brave enough to put that little bird on our shoulder, if we are wise enough to acknowledge his presence everyday, we will be indubitably blessed with a vision that is FAR from nearsightedness.
We will be blessed.
We will say the words we need to say.
We will find ways to forgive the ones that need our forgiveness.
We will strive for the dreams that seem to elude us.
We will find vigor and bravery.
We will have dignity and grace.
And all of it—the love, the pain, the ups, and the downs—will taste twice as sweet.
Impermanence tends to do that!