Let Life Live Through You
I'm not sure about this post. Will people want to read it? I wrote something similar a few years ago on the wellpresent Facebook page and it received precisely no likes, no shares and no comments, and only a few dozen people even looked at it. However, I'm going to do it again because - well it's the most important thing of all, and it seems to me to be less than honest to avoid it. I was advised, at a particularly low point in my life, to adopt a practice that was designed to restore persepective and I have tried to follow that advice ever since. It has become an indispensible part of my daily practice and now I'm going to share it with you.
We live in a world where we're relentlessly encouraged to think positively and where affimations and uplifting slogans are so much part of the landscape, particularly on social media. But no amount of positive thinking is going to change the one thing we can all be certain of; however much we may be attached to this life, it's going to end. All of us are suffering from the same malady and we all share the same prognosis. Yet so many of us act as if we were immortal. That, I would suggest, is a tragedy. Yet it is precisely because we know we are not immortal that we are driven to create beauty and find relish in the life we have been given. It is this knowledge that has made all human achievement possible. Have you any idea how ridiculously improbable your life is? One sperm met one egg, a one in a billion chance, not just once, but in every generation right back to the very beginnings of life itself. And the result was you. That is beyond amazing; it's the greatest miracle the universe has yet come up with. And yes, I'm talking about you. But someday it will all be over. You don't know when and you don't know how (probably) but it will end. That goes for everybody you know, without exception. Your life is staggeringly precious but eventually you will have to say goodbye to it. That is a thought worth holding on to.
So this is the practice. You need to reflect on this fact every day. Not just the fact that you are going to die, as am I, but that everyone you meet is going to as well. If you were to treat every goodbye as, potentially, the last time you will see someone, regardless of who it might be - it could be your worst enemy as much as the love of your life - how would that change things? How does this simple reflection, "This person could die tomorrow", transform the way you treat them, or feel about them? The practice is a difficult one, at least to begin with, but it is incredibly life affirming. To quote the poet Roger Keyes, it makes it possible to "let life live through you". It is the basis for real compassion. It also adds the urgency that is often missing from our lives. Another poet, Raymond Carver, wrote these lines,
And did you get what
you wanted from life even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Please do this with gentleness. Try it a day at a time and feel how it unfolds in your life. And please let us know how you find it.