Thursday, December 28, 2006

Martial, Do I Know You?

Sometimes I will know something but just not be able to wrap the right words around it. It has been this way with me for a little bit about Mortal Clock. Today, it became more clear to me and it came to me when I wasn't looking. I have been thinking this same (nearly 2000 year old) thought for a long time now and while I was looking up something for work on the web, I saw this quote. It was one of those randomly generated quotes on a web page, when I refreshed the page it was gone, but something about it felt important to me even though at first it was a bit unclear for some reason. The way the sentence was constructed didn't immediately compute. Maybe because I wasn't looking for enlightenment. Anyway, before I refreshed the page, I copied and pasted it into notepad to look at later.

When I came back to it, I realized that this quote is what my blog and my personal search is all about. Like many of us probably do, I often put things that are important to me off into the future. I end up indefinitely waiting. Sometimes I will think to myself that I should get more sleep, take time for quiet thought, learn something new or get more exercise and then I just don't. These are all things that would help me to better enjoy my time here. These are things that would help me to be more fulfilled. Tomorrow, next week, next month... next year... Maybe I should wait until I have more time or money or whatever. When is there a better time to live than now? Why do I ignore what is important? Why do I waste precious time doing silly, stupid, non-productive, isolating, empty things? I can see that I need to make a list.

I don't spend all of my time like this of course. I do fulfilling things. I am involved in my community, I put family high on my priority list. But why do I waste ANY time? Why do I? My search is about not waiting. My search is about doing cool, rich, meaningful and alive things. It is about being aware of as much time as possible and filling it with the awareness of an engaged mind, heart and soul. My search is about really, really living and feeling the joy and wonder of it all and crying and laughing and stubbing my toe and... being.

I love life. I love being here. The gift of it all floors me. It is amazing beyond my comprehension and I am thankful. I hope to be able to show this better by the way I live. The quote I found was this:

"Tomorrow I will live, the fool does say; Today itself's too late; the wise lived yesterday."
Martial (c. 66 A.D.) Epigrams

One thousand, nine hundred and forty years later I am a little better for that thought. It was a productive and good thing that was put into the world. It took introspection and focus to convey it across time. What am I contributing to the world? How am I making it better? What will I do to live a life in its richest potential to show true thankfulness for the gift that it is? A Latin poet named Martial from the first century had some idea. People before him probably thought about this too. Now I have to catch up with a 2000 year old notion.

1,252,555,636 seconds left and counting.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Good to the Last Drop

1,348,846,786 seconds and ticking...

So I have a limited time in the world. I have been thinking about life quite a bit lately. I am not so sure why. I don't have a life-limiting event looming over me. I haven't recently lost someone near to me. Slowly though, for years probably, this idea has been bubbling up in me. I love life. I think it is an amazing gift. I appreciate the beautiful moments with family and friends. I try to stop, notice and experience the sounds, smells and all the life that is going on all around me, but I fail so much.

There are so many important things that I let go. Why are they important outside of the fact that they have value to me? They probably aren't, but that is part of the point. We all make sacrifices. Sacrifices are part of life and they are part of what make things valuable. If we could have everything, then nothing would have value. This is the same with life. It is part of why life is so precious. Think about immortality. If you were immortal, what would you do? I think I would try to learn everything. This seems like an impossible endeavor, but if you couldn't die; time wasn't an issue, you would eventually accomplish this and then what? What would the value of a second be if it were endlessly replaced by another?

Possibly the most incredible and most wondrous gift that could have ever been bestowed upon us was our mortality. It gives our time here great value. It makes our living all the more rich. Once a mayfly reaches adulthood, it doesn't even eat. Within three weeks it mates and dies. My guess is that's why it doesn't spend any time vegged out in front of SpongeBob SquarePants. It is engaged in living.

Back to sacrifices though, I believe that sacrifice is part of life and it is part of what gives our activities value. When I get a chance to go camping (which I love) it is that much more enjoyable. Sacrifice also helps us to build bigger and more important things. Sometimes things that are bigger than our lives. Think of all the brave soldiers that have sacrificed their lives so that the bigger ideal of freedom can prevail.

So though I believe that we can't have everything and that nothing will turn out exactly as we would like it to, I also believe that most of us can find a way to fulfill most of our needs if we are thoughtful and stop to look around us and take inventory.

What is important to me? What do I need to have a balanced life so that I can enjoy it rather than simply rush through it? Hmmm... Well how would I savor a really great cup of coffee? I think it might be just that simple.

Say an archaeologist friend of mine unearthed an urn of coffee beans from ancient Egypt. Some lost art had enabled them to be perfectly preserved. After deciphering the glyphs she learned that they were a form of coffee that at the time was extremely rare and only consumed by the greatest of the Pharaohs. The beans were so rare that they were preserved in a tomb for a particularly mighty Pharaoh to consume in the afterlife. Rare 4000 years ago, they would undoubtedly be the only ones left anywhere in the universe now. Well my friend being a coffee lover like me (and truly a good friend) brought them over and we ground them up and put them in the best coffee maker we could find. How would I savor THAT cup of coffee? I can tell you it wouldn't be as I was running around trying to find my belt or shoe before I dashed off to be eight minutes late for work. I would sit down in a quiet place and probably with someone I cared about. I would minimize the distractions... and sip. I would thoughtfully consider the taste, move it all around on my tongue, take in the aroma and feel that cup of coffee. I would enjoy it for what it was; a precious one-of-a-kind gift from my friend.

That's what I want to do with my life.

Mmmm good.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Be Rich

Tick… There are an estimated 1,349,778,399 seconds remaining for me in this life. I don’t want to spend any of my life’s time in hate.

Imagine that you are standing in a quiet and peaceful room. Your hand is stretched out in front of you. Each second a pure glass marble falls out of the air and passes through your hand and as it does, it is transformed before falling to land at your feet where it is yours forever. The only sound is the clicking noise each marble makes as it falls to the pile with the rest. What do these marbles become? That is really up to us.

When I was in high school (and it has been a while), I remember that my home room teacher had a poster on the wall. It was a picture of a stream bubbling and flowing over smoothed rocks and around trees and plants. I believe the caption was the Henry David Thoreau quote “That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.” (How is it that I can remember that poster and yet have managed to forget most of my algebra?) What makes a person rich? I am talking about rich in a way that matters.

The marbles become beautiful jewels or ugly stones.

We are showered with the gift of this continuous choice. We carry the result of these choices with us for the rest of our lives. As the marble passes through our hand, if we are happy or at peace or feeling joy, the marble is transformed into a precious gem that we get to keep forever. If we are feeling hate, misery, unrest; we get a stone. Working 60 hour weeks to build up a huge pile of money doesn’t make you rich where it really counts if each marble that falls through your hand is turned into a bit of granite or tar. The point is again, that our lives are finite and so each marble is potentially precious beyond imagining.

Now, there are many things that we have no choice over. Sad things happen to all of us. We will all grow through these things and our life will be changed. I am talking about the things we do have a choice over. Hate, greed, anger and guilt are all things that ruin the potential beauty that this life has for each of us. If someone steals your car and you decide to hate them and every time you think about it, you feel the pain and hate you are letting yourself be hurt again. The pile of rocks grows; wasted time and life.

We all need to realize that if someone does something bad to us, they are the ones who are really hurt. What defines a person is what that person puts into the world. Sad and bad things happen, but they do not define us. We aren’t defined by anything that “happens” to us. If someone steals my car, it doesn’t make me a bad person. Why should I feel bad about it? Obviously, I will feel loss. Each time I go to get into my non-existent car, I will miss it. I am talking about the anger and hate. If I fall to this, I am re-living the loss of my car over and over. I am letting the thief steal even more from me.

We are defined simply by what we do; what we put into the world. We can feel good about ourselves if we are putting what we consider to be good into the world. At that point the stolen car becomes irrelevant. It wasn’t something we did. We can feel good knowing who we are and where our place is and what we are contributing. We can look for peace in ourselves and know that we are becoming wealthier in the only way that really matters.

Be rich.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Amazing Gift


Tick... By some accounts, I have 1,349,966,998 more seconds left in this world (give or take). Of course, this is just a statistic based on a bunch of historical data and is probably about as accurate as predicting a sunny day next Tuesday and three years from now. That isn't really the point though. My time here is finite at least in my present form. I have been giving this more and more thought lately. My thinking isn't borne from some fear of my mortality. I am just becoming more aware of the Amazing Gift. My spark, my awareness, my ability to interact with the world around me; the fact that I am here is a beautiful and wondrous gift. I have been spending some of my time thinking about how I should use this gift.

Each second is precious. It could be the second that you see your first perfect circle rainbow (I saw one in a plane… it was cool.), the second you see a baby born or the second you cure cancer. It might be the second that you truly become aware and wake up to the world around you. It could be the second that you recapture your childhood wonder or save a life or taste the perfect cup of coffee. These perfect jewels of possibility called “seconds” are showered upon us to the point that we stop even noticing them and look further and further into the future toward a more perfect satisfaction. Unlike real jewels though, they are only collected if they are used. Of course all seconds are used. We are always doing something. It’s what we fill the seconds with that gives them their value.

Time is precious because it has the potential to be filled with wonder, love, peace, fulfillment and any number of other amazing things. What’s even cooler is that we get to decide what to put in it. Wow.

Of course, none of us truly knows when we will run out of “ticks”. So, I am spending some of mine thinking about how I really want to spend them. It turns out, even considering the Amazing Gift is rewarding.