This post was originally published in September 2010. I am now 53, my oldest daughter had completed first grade and my youngest, kindergarten.
I was having a conversation with two colleagues recently about how quickly time passes. One said that he still felt like a kid inside. The other said “We all feel that way, yet, when I think about being 60, I realize that I’m nearer to the end of my life than the beginning.
I figure I’m about halfway, at 50 years old. That was fast.
The day before, my oldest daughter started her second week of kindergarten. It was the first chilly day after temps of 100+ here in So Cal. I walked through the schoolyard with my daughter and there were sights and sounds I’ve not experienced for many years: children in line, backpacks, classrooms. I still remember my first day of first grade. Has it been 45 years? My daughter’s in school now, how did that happen so quickly? Is summer over already? Everything is happening so quickly…
I was camping out on Lake Mohave last weekend with my brothers and brother-in-law. The first night on the lake we were treated to an incredible lightning storm. We were surrounded on every inch of the horizon by constant lightning flashes, continuously lighting up the pitch black night. It was incredible; something I’ve seen only a handful of times and only while living in Arizona.
Today, my first day back at work, I drove from my 7 am business meeting to my office, but I didn’t stop; I drove right by. I wasn’t ready to go in there, sit down, and be contained within four walls. I drove aimlessly for a while, listening to Elvis Costello sing “Poor Fractured Atlas.”
I ended up sitting at an outdoor table at a café. I sit there now, the air is cool, and it’s still quiet. The sun shining on me feels good. There are lots of trees and flowers. There’s a nursery next door, when I’m ready to leave I will walk slowly through it, to be close to the green and living things.
Coming back from a few days at the lake is always tough for me. My mind is slow, and I find myself resisting the transition back to “regular”, busy life. I want another hour to sit, to watch, to think, to feel my life happen. I’m not ready to go back to work yet, just give me another hour. There will always be work to do. And life will continue to fly by. For now, I’m standing outside the stream of my life, where I can drink with intention and clarity.
As if in confirmation, a bell rings at the train station, it’s message: “Train coming, better get on board.” A dragonfly flys by me. The last one I saw was at the lake, two days ago as I sat peacefully looking out over the water and reflecting on my life. It seemed to remind me “Don’t let it go…”
Life is precious and short. To stay on board with your own life you’ve got to pay attention, or you’ll miss what matters, as it goes by quickly. While sitting in your seat on the ride of your life, you’ve got to look out the window and be present to your own life as it passes by; the valleys, the peaks, the plateaus, the darkness, the light.
There is a Japanese folk song I like called Sakura Sakura (Cherry Blossoms). To the Japanese, the fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms symbolizes the brevity of life and the frailty of existence. Like the life of a man or woman, the petals are brief, colorful, and bright for the short duration of their life before they wither and die.
Life is meaningful, profound, and precious precisely because it will be done too soon, and I find myself very present to that now. I can’t help but ponder the Big Question: Why are we here, just to be gone in a flash?
I think about that lightning storm. Maybe it’s all about the light. It’s said that everything living is light bound into matter. What if the most profound legacy we can leave, in the short flash of a spark that is a person’s life, is the light that we bring to the darkness? Those that we revere through history, whose lives and teachings we honor in church and temple, in music and art, were all bringers of light. That light gives us hope, guidance and comfort as we continue along on our journey that is this life.
I think the biggest problem that humans face, and the biggest obstacle to peace and happiness is that we are blind to our own light. We fail to see it because we’re not taught to, or shown how. So how can we see the light in others?
If I can be present to this brief and singular burst of color that is my life, if I can know myself as this lightning flash bound into matter, then maybe I can know your light. And if you can’t see it, then maybe I can help you see it. Should I find myself in darkness, maybe you can help me find mine.
After I’m gone, I don’t want my kids to remember me for how hard I worked, how much money I made, or how much respect I got. I want them to remember that I helped them know and honor their own light, because I was in touch with mine. I want to light the way for them.
And so I go back to work, back to the busy, but now with a bit more peace. The reason I’m here is to know my light, and then shine it, wherever, whenever, and however I can, into the pitch black of our own blindness. May we all light the way for each other.
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