Living on borrowed time
The awakening to the mystery of life is a revolutionary event; in it an old world is destroyed so that a new and better one may take its place, and all things are affected by the change. We ourselves have become mysterious strangers in our own eyes and tremblingly we ask ourselves who we are, whence we came, whither we are bound. Are we the being who is called by our name, whom we thought we knew so well in the past? Are we the form we see in the mirror, our body, offspring of our parents? Who, then, is it that feels and thinks within us, that wills and struggles, plans and dreams, that can oppose and control this physical body which we thought to be ourselves? We wake up to realize that we have never known ourselves, that we have lived as in a blind dream of ceaseless activity in which there was never a moment of self recollection. —J. J. Van Der Leeuw, The Conquest of Illusion
Good morning everyone.
I'm here — 5 am, on the dot.
Life is happening slowly — or so it seems.
I've got a cup of coffee poured, which I'm enjoying, even though the taste is still heightened by this virus that refuses to give up the ghost.
How are you?
What's on today?
Me? I don't know. A little bit of work — not too much I hope — and sorting through some old papers, including the paraphernalia associated with my pension.
Yesterday, I spent a few hours sorting my office. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen the three pictures I put up showing the redesign. To be honest, it's not wildly different to how it was before, save that it is, if only because I've moved my small, second desk and a bookshelf which has allowed in more light — more beautiful, beautiful light. And now? It feels pregnant with creative energy to feed my urge to type, draw, write and use my calligraphy pens. Also, I've got some new watercolour paints — a lovely father's day present — and I've got everything lined up ready for...? I'm not quite sure, but it feels like some hand-written prose in the first instance, and who knows after that. (I might share a few lines here if that's OK.)
Again, I feel blessed — as trite as that is. Truly blessed.
As to the title?
I know, it's normally associated with those who've been given a very short time to live, or who've escaped, by the skin on their teeth, some major incident or near-death experience and, therefore, it seems, well..., erm..., slightly hyperbolic, unsolicited or downright crass and uncaring but it's what's arising today apropos another truism.
Life is ending moment by moment — where the apparent time comes from, no one knows.
And for me right now, it's how I feel — at the deepest, most profound level. In fact, I can't escape the sense that I've not got much time to create, to love, to live, to let go and just to be.
It's not that I've a fascination with death or I'm a morbid SOB, but death isn't something I fear and, in fact, I wish we'd discuss it more openly, more lovingly and not run from its shores at breakneck speed trying to avoid its inevitable clutches.
the truth is
none of us knows how long
this could be it: today.
even waking up
you can play the odds
do the maths
and live on the best diet in the world
avoid the booze
and all harmful stuff
but your time
is your time.
and this, today, could be it.
For a lot of people — at least from my purview — that means, absent knowing how long they've got, they very often go into must do mode. There are so many things that need to be crossed off the Bucket List or whatever list has haunted them all their days. But what does it mean at the end of the day? They've maxed out, lived life to the full and their quality of life is...off the scale?
But, what does it mean to Die Wise (see the extraordinary book by Stephen Jenkinson)?
Again, what does it mean to Die Wise?
I find it a very hard question to invite into my heart, let alone posit an or any answer. As best as I know it's not only to see life as life but also death — i.e. the flip-side of whatever is arising. I don't worship a deity — life is more than enough — but if I did, I'd see death in that space, namely the suchness of endings. That means, at least right now, I'm feeling melancholic both by dint of the near-term passing of Brian (my father-in-law) and (as an example), having looked at my old wedding pictures yesterday (I was married on 5 September 1992 to Allison), I realise how much I've done and have changed in nearly 30 years. How much more time have I got left keeps coming up? I know my kids keep ribbing me for my apparent obsession with the 'D' word. "Oh, for god's sake, Dad". But I can't help it. I keep saying: "When I'm not here...". Why is that? Well, I know it's a certainty — the only certain thing there is in many ways and I want to remind them as much about my own mortality as theirs. Strange, eh?
You might ask why am I sharing all this personal stuff? I don't know. I really don't. Actually, that's a barefaced lie. I'm hoping — in a very tentative, non-egoic way — that perhaps, just perhaps, someone might pick up the smell of these posts and realise that what I was trying to share is my fascination with life — all of it. When I use the words "the full catastrophe" (see Jon Kabat-Zinn's book bearing this title), I think that's the most apt description of what we're experiencing — moment by moment. It's neither high, low or anything in between. In fact, as I've said over the last few posts, it's that space, that delicious space of not knowing that we need to see, experience and feel — as if we've got a choice!
Too many labels, perhaps?
Yes, I can see that?
What am I really trying to say?
"The juice, Jules. Cut the BS."
Stop running long enough to look up and ask yourself what's really happening. Question everything without any intention to find a slick, ready-made answer. Don't be afraid to sit with uncertainty. But, most of all, if you feel drawn to something — and I don't mean in a whimsical way but as if you're life depended on it — then it's almost your duty to pursue it whatever the consequences. Of course, that's easy to say but much harder to execute but then again, what else are you going to do with your one and oh-so-precious life?
Blessings and much love,
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