It’s funny how sometimes the tiniest of occurrences can unleash a landslide of emotions and associations that can propel our minds to a totally new place.
Once, after yoga, I overheard a conversation between my yoga teacher and another student that threw me into a small frenzy of thought. What I overheard while all of us were changing was that the student—an unassuming looking woman—was leaving next week to Antarctica on a research ship. She would be sailing around the islands down south for four months.
I looked at her in awe and for inexplicable reasons felt the thrill of exploration. There, a few meters away, was someone who in a few weeks’ time would be visiting one of the places on our little Earth that is still considered a frontier.
Perhaps the thrill of exploration I felt could be explained by the fact that I myself would do a lot (cleaning latrines on a ship included) to see Antarctica. Heck, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, and being on a space ship or the moon looking at the Earth is still an active dream of mine. But I don’t think that was the reason for the explorer’s thrill I felt. What jarred me was the sudden and (finally) complete realization that time is ticking away. I have been gradually becoming more and more aware of the value of time ever since I had my son and time suddenly got sparse. But that day after yoga, the message really sunk in.
There’s this song by José González (listen to it here) where he sings:
I’ve been waiting all my life
To feel your heart as it’s keeping time.
…your heart as it’s keeping time. Aren’t all our hearts keeping time? And with this notion came the jarring, thrilling realization that I was absolutely free to choose what to do with my time. I was thrilled to be liberated to explore my time.
I can’t explain why I didn’t feel free before to just put down a book if I found it boring or to not clean up the kitchen and instead meditate. Every day, we feel bogged down by the mundane in life (the cleaning, the cooking, the washing, the shopping), by our own rules (I always shop food on Thursdays), and by our prison walls (I have to clean up the kitchen or the world will fall apart), and we forget that these tasks in life are the supporting tasks, so we can function well enough to do what really matters to us.
What matters to me is my family, writing, meditating, doing yoga, connecting to interesting people, and living for experiences. But I had started to rather live to do chores hoping that one day when the chores end, I can start experiencing what I really want to. Well, nope, chores don’t end, but our time does. I guess hearing where the scientist yogi was going reminded me to not sink down into the practicalities of life, but to always strive to look above the undergrowth; to always climb to the tips of the rabbit’s finest, most fragile hairs as Jostein Gaarder puts it in Sophie’s World (Goodreads).
There is something liberating in mortality when one looks at things this way*. It gives us the total right and complete justification to pass on things that are not worth our time. Of course, cooking and cleaning need to be done at some point, but living for the sake of merely existing is not the best use of our time. There’s so much space to grow; so much to experience and learn. Time is worth more than any value we can think of, for time is life, and every heartbeat is a vital second that was either lived or not.
P.S. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone! May the new year be a well-lived one.
*Hugh Howey has a great post where he puts immortality in the grand perspective of infinite time. You can read it here.