Forever is composed of nows.
― Emily Dickinson
Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
― A.A. Milne
It’s a sprint.
Yes. It is.
Sure, we always hear the opposite, that our lives are marathons, to take the long term view. And I agree, we’re well served being mindful of our impulses, being calm, reigning in our reflexes when needed. I’m a believer in the old saw:
Don’t react. Respond.
I think life and human consciousness, in a nutshell, is the gift of the pursuit of happiness, and with it, the occasional achievement of happiness, and that the best way to engage in that pursuit is to view life as a sprint.
It’s not that complicated. I’m not going to get all misty and metaphysical here. It’s just, it’s way too easy to never carpe diem if you think you have an endless supply of diem. But if we treat time and opportunity as scarce and precious and ephemeral, and we stay aware that our lives can and do end — BAM — any time, in a nanosecond, well then:
Yes, any particular sprint is not an end unto itself. And all sprints are in service of the big picture, yes, the marathon. So it’s essential to try to navigate and calibrate and weigh the risks and benefits of any sprint holistically, by considering its place in the overall portrait of a life. To practice mindfulness, awareness of the moment, consideration of the fact that just being can be enough.
But then, if it feels right, or even 51% right, sprint. Do it. Feel it. Say it. Live it. Love it. Think it. Try it. Whatever it is. Now. Not later. Not when it’s convenient. Not when the universe tells you, or the stars align.
Fall down, get up, fall down again. The future is unwritten… so forget about it. The present is all we’ve got.
So be in a rush.
In this I differ slightly from classical Buddhism and mindfulness practices, which basically preach: Don’t just do something, sit there.
Yes, sit there. As a necessary, refreshing, enriching break from sprinting. (Full disclosure, I meditate every day.) But then sprint.
Be disciplined. This isn’t an argument for hedonism or acting like an irresponsible jerk. It’s just a way of thinking, to give oneself the freedom to explore, take risks, acknowledge mortality and turn it into a positive not a gloomy downer. I mean, of course it sucks that we die but if we lived forever then we’d always put things off to later. To the point where nobody would ever do anything. (Credit where it’s due: The late, great Isaac Asimov wrote extensively on this.)
But we don’t live forever, we only have 70 or 90 years on the planet, and for a good number of those years (childhood, infirm extreme old age) we don’t really have the liberty to sprint, to scratch our heart and soul itches.
So yes: Life is long. But time is short.
It’s a sprint.
And the referee long ago fired the starting gun.