In ordinary, everyday life, things look ordinary and everyday. They just do. Days tend to go the way we expect them to which makes life comfortable, predictable and…let’s face it…easy to take for granted. Abundance is one of the things that breeds this kind of carelessness. When it looks like we still have an unlimited supply of tomorrows it can make what we do with today seem unimportant. Less urgent.
Which isn’t true of course. Every last thing we ever do from taking a breath, to grumbling about chores, to graduating from college, to losing a job, to giving birth, to getting old, to dying, is an irreplaceable, priceless gift of life on a long chain of irreplaceable, priceless gifts.
But the illusion that any given moment doesn’t matter can be powerful and, when I think about it, perhaps not altogether unnecessary. After all, it could be hard to get stuff done if we were face down on the floor all the time, incapacitated with the kind of wonder, longing, and gratitude for life that often comes to a person when they learn it’s their time to die. I mean Big Awe can be fabulous, for sure, but it’s not terribly practical when you’re tackling a to-do list.
And yet, I do so love that feeling of dawning wonder. Those moments when I look at my life and realize (for a mind-blowing, gut-wrenching moment) just how fragile, miraculous, and brief all this is. Oh sure. Those moments tend to wreak havoc with my daily routine because after a glimpse like that I want to slow down and savor everything. Even things like taking the trash out and wiping under the rim of the toilet bowl take longer because crappy though they are, they’re suddenly glowing, like everything is glowing, and it’s really distracting.
But this spike in inefficiency is worth it to me because, for however long those moments last, I’m not afraid anymore. Of anything.
Look. I realize that dying is generally held to be a morbid subject and I know it’s odd for me to want to talk about it as much as I do. But I can’t shake the hope that if I could just capture a couple of those brief and luminous moments in words, that maybe somehow it might help ease some of the deep, unconscious fear somebody else has, too. That maybe if some of the general, widespread terror could be alleviated, our lives and relationships with one another might be transformed today, long before we ever have to face dying ourselves and embark on our own journeys.
Of course this is probably just a pipe dream. Most likely, everything is perfect just the way it is and I should just be quiet and garden instead. Dying is probably a reality too big to cope with in everyday life, too vast and searing to look at until we’re right on the brink of falling in. Maybe we’re supposed to just forget, fall asleep and live in the dream of small, safe things until the yawning maw opens wide to swallow us at the end.
But then again…maybe not. What if there’s no law ordaining that we have to wait until we’re actually dying to glimpse the strange, revealing light it offers? What if the rules are more flexible than that? What if it’s perfectly okay, even good, to look around us sometimes with transformed eyes while we’re still healthy, happy and whole, so we can see once again, however briefly, just how huge, beautiful, terrifying, priceless, miraculous and brief this life really is?
What if, however impractical or inefficient they might be, moments of heartbreaking wonder were actually good for us?
copyright Dia Osborn 2011