I had a thought this morning.
I was in that state where your eyes are opening and closing every few minutes, where you know the day has started but you are not quite ready to join it, and my mind had started ticking over and running through seemingly random scenarios. Although they seemed random I am sure they were guided by whatever crazy dreams had pervaded my sleep. I dream a lot lately, and the ones I do remember tend to be real crazy shit.
As my eyes fluttered and my brain fired up, between thoughts of how I might get out of going to the gym today and more ethereal nondescript brain farts, a thought popped up. It was not the most original thought in the world, and it was not the first time I had thought such a thing, but today it remained clear enough for long enough for me to want to put it into words.
The thought was not a lucid and immediately coherent one, not something I could necessarily put into a nice clean sentence which would make it easily graspable by myself or anyone I might share it with, but it was and is a thought which is innately clear and understandable to most everyone, whether in the recesses of their minds or as a constant nagging burr of ‘conscious’ thought.
Why do we think we are truly conscious? Why when we spend most of our lives acting out unconscious rolling nondescript events almost completely void of substance and not worthy even of remaining in our memories, do we think ourselves conscious? We put people above animals because generally speaking they do not know what it means to live. Yet neither do we.
If we did, why would we spend the little time allotted to us here on this earth wandering in a daze through hours, days, weeks, months, years and eventually our individual eternities? We can only think and feel as much as is allowed us by our biology, but we hardly ever practice the furthest reaches of the experience that biology is capable of. We have all read and/or heard a million books, movies and prophets telling us to live in the moment, yet we struggle to grasp it in any meaningful way because the extreme of it is not achievable by biological beings. To me there is something even more sad than not being able to truly live in each moment, and that is how few of us ever truly live at all.
Day after day passes doing the same thing, barely even realizing that this thing we have is finite, promising ourselves that one day we will do this, or one day we will do that, yet it barely ever crosses our minds that one day there will be no more one days.
I have by no means perfected or even taken more than a few steps along the path which leads to living in the moment, and to be honest I doubt I will ever get very far along that path. Every now and then, in fact a couple times a day I have the realization that I have a wonderful life, and that I am so grateful I get to make the most of every moment. Even if being on this diet sucks, even if I have a lot of work to do, even if Sarah and I have had an argument, or the douche mechanic has ripped us off. I am getting to live. My moments are my own.
I do not think anyone is truly capable of living in the moment, not for an extended period of time anyway. If we did our moments would be a lot fewer than they currently are (we are biology, and biology needs sustenance, which requires thinking about how we are going to get that sustenance). The thing that is available to us though, the thing that truly raises us above the animals (aside from toilet paper and cable TV), is the ability to acknowledge the time we have on this earth and to make the most of it.
We will not live forever, but we can at least choose to live for the time we have. Save your money. Do the things you love and love the things you do. Share your life with people that make you happy. Take back the years, months, hours and minutes that you are lucky enough to have, and live while you can. If you make it to eighty, do you think you will be fulfilled because you did well at your job or jobs for the last sixty years? Do you think you will be happy that you paid off your mortgage? As you sat back and contemplated the moments that made up your life, what do you, the person who is living now, think would shine through as the things that were worth doing?
If you have an idea of what eighty year old you is thinking, why not go out and live like that now? Why wait until all you can do is think back to the things you should have done. As humans we have the gift of foresight, use it and live a life you will one day look back on without regret.
My life is not perfect, and I do not live it in a perfect way, not even for me. But I try, I walked the plank from a safe life, and found a real one waiting below the waves. Within a couple months I knew I had done the right thing. Everyday I remind myself that I have a fantastic life, not because I have money, not because I have really nice toys and cable TV (although I really do love my pretty laptop… And cable TV), but because I have freedom, I have choices, and I have time.
Something not many people know about me is that I have an almost over-riding fear of death. Not of how I am going to die, or even of when, but the pure reality of knowing that I am going to die, and that this life will come to an end for me. It seems obvious, but it is pretty much the only thing in life which I worry about these days. In fact everything else seems trivial in comparison which is why I very seldom get stressed out in any meaningful way.
It has been a huge influence on how I live my life and why I do the things I do. I am trying to overcome it and not let it rule my every thought. I remind myself about how amazing it is to be alive, which is why I manage to suck as much joy out of every day as possible. But it is there and has been as far back as I can remember, a feeling of futility, a dark cloud of oppressive gloom which lives on the edge of my mind.
In my younger days I gave in to it more often than not, and it was one of the reasons I self medicated with drugs as much as I did. As a slightly less mature but older man, I have managed for the most part to live around it, it is still almost always the last thing on my mind when I go to sleep, and the first thing I think about when I wake up, but once I take control of my faculties I push it to the side and get on with living.
The thoughts and emotions the inescapable thought of dying brings up are powerful. But more powerful obviously, is the feeling that I want to make the most of what I have. I know death will come to me, and I am terrified of its finality. But until then I do not want to waste a minute of this tiny period of existence where I am awake. I will, undoubtedly, waste some of it, but I am damn well going to do my best to live while I can.
I woke up this morning and had a thought. One day this thing called life will come to an end for all of us, I would like to make the most of it. How about you?