Life Is an Occasion. Rise to It!
Believe it or not, my life is based on a true story. Come to think of it, so is yours. And so was Quentin Crisp‘s. One of the lines he left with us before his death at age 90 was, “Life was a funny thing that happened to me on the way to the grave.” When we can joke about life, it shows we put it in proper perspective. That is, we take it lightly. Meaning, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Life is grand, but we’re just a small part of it. We’re important, mind you, but replaceable. To lead a balanced life, we don’t want to exaggerate our significance.
Taking life lightly doesn’t mean living without passion. On the contrary, we want to burn brightly in the wind, before it blows us out. We want to embrace life and thank it for the opportunity to love, work, and play. We want to dive in and plunge into its depths. Everyone dies, but not everyone lives, and we refuse to join those who merely exist. To be or not to be is not the question. To live or not to live; that is the question.
We embrace life by living courageously. Since we’re not going to get out of it alive, why hold back? We need to attack it with boldness. The only thing we need to fear is living too cautiously. Ironically, life is most exciting when we love someone, something, or some cause more than life itself.
As a young man, Tommy was dying to graduate high school and go off to college. Then he was dying to graduate college and start working. Next, he was dying to get married and settle down. No sooner than he did so, he was dying to get a house. Then, dying to pay off the mortgage. Finally, dying to retire. Now, an old man, Tommy is just dying. It seems that all his life he was just chasing after dreams. Although he was always dying to do many things, the thought never occurred to him to be dying to live. Life isn’t about chasing the future; it’s about experiencing the present. It’s about relishing this moment. Life is a present and the present. That’s why we call it a gift.
Life is the sound of a frog splashing into a pond. It is a blinding flash of lightning that sparkles in the eyes of an owl. It is the spring mist that silently hides pastel blossoms. Those who dwell in the beauty and mystery of life are never lonely. They also know life is the aroma of the soft grass we lie on while delighting in the warm rays of a summer day. It is also the taste of blackberries just plucked from a bush. It is all these and a great deal more. For it is a boundless tapestry that we observe, weave, and experience. Life is a feature film, projected one frame at a time, and we are the director, main actor, and audience member.
It is not death that we need to fear, but an inadequate life. Why? Because life is not lost when we die. It is only lost while we live. In is lost in opportunities that we allow to slip through our fingers. In each moment of inaction, we die bit by bit. When we waste time, we kill it. When we kill time, we murder life. If life is marching by, shouldn’t we be joining in? After all, one-third of our life is spent sleeping and another third in growing up and growing old. How much is left to live? We are Mayflies. Our lives are fleeting; we’re here a single day.
Obviously, the time to start living is now. But the choice is ours. Either we let our lives slip away by not doing what we want to, or we get up and join the parade. Yes, life is brief, but don’t despair; you still have 100% of the rest of your life left. We didn’t choose where and when we would be born, nor can we choose where, when, and how we will die. But we can choose whether we live or exist. And if we choose to live, we can decide how we wish to live.
Life expresses itself in action. It is not, “I think and therefore I am,” but “I act and therefore I live.” This assumes our actions are done with awareness. Once we accept that life is not a dress rehearsal — we have only one shot at it — we will be more inclined to act. How, then, should we act? Viktor E. Frankl offers one suggestion, “Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time.”
We have to be willing to accept what life gives us. But we don’t have to take it and leave it; we can take it and change it. Isn’t that why we’re here? To make the world a better place? As Mark Twain said, “Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Let’s not take life for granted, but appreciate each moment. After all, it doesn’t matter how much we have; it only matters how much we appreciate what we have. Also, appreciate others. For when we appreciate their great deeds, we magically share in their goodness.
To enjoy life to the fullest, we need to know where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there. True, the road may be tough. So, you may be tempted to say, “Life is hard.” If you do, ask yourself, “Hard compared to what?” Besides, even if we’re not where we want to be, as long as we are advancing toward our goal, we can enjoy the present moment. Life doesn’t happen to us, it happens from us because we create it. We can avoid stumbling through life by focusing on growing throughout life.
We already know life is expressed by action, but the crown jewel of action is love. Kahlil Gibran explains, “Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” Victor Hugo‘s explanation is equally valid, “Life is a flower of which love is the honey.” What is the message of love? Simply this, the major purpose of our life is the happiness and joy it brings to others. May we live (not merely exist) all the days of our lives!
Life Is an Adventure to Be Lived
A Sherpa boy was born into a life of adventure. He saw the beauty that surrounded him, felt the frigid blasts of mountain air that invigorated him, heard the peaceful sounds of quietude, tasted the snow that playfully danced in his mouth whenever he spoke, and after blowing out the candle, smelled the fragrance of nightfall.
How easy it is to imagine a life of adventure in a distant land. Yet, life itself is an adventure if we allow it to be. Each moment is another page in an exciting book we call life. Here’s how it was described by French poet, historian, and statesman Alphonse de Larmartine, “The world is a book and every step turns a new page.”
People respond differently when given a good book. Some may accept it, but ignore it. Others may set it aside to read “someday.” Still others will read it, but not apply what they have learned. Then there are those who are like children, filled with curiosity, always eager to learn and discover. They are the adventurers. They live in the moment and delight in the sounds, feelings, sights, aromas, tastes, sensations, and experiences that engulf them. They love the world. They love life.
Sometimes all it takes is a visit to the park to reawaken our senses and spirit. If we let go of the cares of the day, we open ourselves to the beauty, wonder, awe, and mystery of life. These sentiments are well expressed in the following poem by writer, poet, and adventurer, William Henry Davies:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
It is this same gentleman, rascal, and tramp who taught that life is measured by the breaths we do NOT take, those breathtaking moments of joy, delight, and enchantment. And he is probably the author of that beautiful quotation, “Life is not measured by the number of breathes we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
But before we can experience the grandeur of the present moment, we have to be aware. Writing on awareness, Thomas Dreier had this to say, “A greater poverty than that caused by lack of money is the poverty of unawareness. Men and women go about the world unaware of the beauty, the goodness, and the glories in it. Their souls are poor. It is better to have a poor pocketbook than to suffer from a poor soul.”
If your day isn’t brimming over with excitement and pleasure, a good start would be to look for things to be thankful for. Do this often enough and it becomes habitual. And later, you will no longer have to search for life’s delights because you will be constantly stumbling over them throughout the day.
Are you waiting for a special day to experience life as an adventure? That won’t be necessary. A normal day will do, as Mary Jean Iron shows in her prayer, “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.”
When novelist Howard Spring was a young boy, he read and remembered the inscription on a sundial. It read, “I count only the hours that shine.” There is no better guarantee of an adventurous life than by making every hour shine and every minute count. Always doing our best is the key to memorable exploits.
Some would argue that far from being exciting, life is boring. They mistakenly believe that boredom is caused by external events or our environment. But boredom is not a result of outside events. It is caused by a decision to do nothing rather than something. Adventurers are engaged with life. They form a partnership with it, making things happen by taking action and delighting in the surprises that life brings our way.
When seen from the right perspective, change, the unknown, and risks are the ingredients of an adventure. But when viewed with the wrong attitude, they become fearful and things to avoid. No wonder Ray Stannard Baker writes, “Adventure is not outside a man; it is within.” After all, it is an attitude we embrace, a choice we make, and a decision we commit to.
Psychotherapist, researcher, and consultant, Dr. Dawna Markova expressed an attitude worthy of imitating when she wrote, “I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”
One secret of adventuresome living is to embrace life, but not so tightly that we squeeze the adventure out of it. A pianist lets go of the keys immediately after striking them. Similarly, the way to enjoy an adventure is to be willing to let it go. How can life’s adventure develop and surprise us unless we release our grip?
Mrs. Taylor of Foster, Quebec learned about this from a poem she found scribbled on a piece of paper in a restaurant in Montreal. Here’s the poem:
The Art of Living
To touch the cup with eager lips and taste, not drain it;
To woo and tempt and count a bliss, and not attain it;
To fondle and caress a joy, yet hold it lightly;
To watch the sunset in the west without regretting;
To hail its advent in the east, the night forgetting;
To smother care in happiness, and grief in laughter;
To hold the present close, not questioning the hereafter;
To have enough to share, to know the joy of giving;
To thrill with all the sweets of life — that’s living.
Here’s another poem to act as a guide to adventuresome living. It was written by Rear Admiral R. H. Jackson:
THE OLD GARDENER
Count your garden by the flowers,
Never by the leaves that fall.
Count your day by golden hours,
Don’t remember clouds at all.
Count your nights by stars, not shadows,
Count your life by smiles, not tears,
And, with joy on every birthday,
Count your age by friends — not years.
Two concluding thoughts:
1. Here’s the first thought written by British social reformer and Theosophist, Annie Besant. “Never forget that life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely and gallantly, as a splendid adventure in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and lose many a battle.”
2. In all areas of life we should strive for balance. Answering life’s call for greatness is no different. Overly focusing on greatness can lead to problems rather than solve them. To avoid problems and achieve more balance be sure to watch the Cheryl Strayed video, “The Humble Journey to Greatness.” The link to the video appears in the following References/ VIDEOS section.
- Greatness: The 16 Characteristics of True Champions by Don Yaeger
- The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle
- 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
- Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success by Stephen R. Covey
- The Greatness Guide: 101 Lessons for Making What’s Good at Work and in Life Even Better by Robin Sharma
- Seeds Of Greatness by Denis Waitley