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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

All the Time in the World

"A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun."
~ Isaac Watts, "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past", "Psalm 90"

"Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses... This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours.”
~ Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations"

From the first day over ten years ago that I've lived in Washington, DC, I discovered and have often been reminded of a personal axiom about living here, "It always takes longer than I think it will."

Whether it's a "quick" trip to the grocery store, a metro ride across town, or driving anywhere in metropolitan area (especially on a Friday afternoon!), I always try to give myself more time than I think it will take to go or do whatever it is I'm doing or wherever I'm going to.

Conversely, the two quotations above remind us that life as we know and experience it is shorter than we think it is. Much shorter!  In fact it is as short as the present moment.  The same moment is also longer than we think, encompassing eternity itself.

Time is one, if not perhaps the greatest, of life's illusions.  We think we have all the time in the world, when in fact we don't.  And then once coming to this realization we realize that "all the time in the world" is contained in and as fleeting as the present moment.

Marcus Aurelius also says, “Take it that you have died today, and your life’s story is ended; and henceforward regard what future time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus, and live it out in harmony with nature.” 

Jesus puts it this way, "those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life will find it."  He also said, "Don't worry about tomorrow..."  Today is all we have. 

So, in taking all of this to heart, here's a little exercise I'm borrowing from Brian Johnson's Philosopher's Note on Marcus Aurelius.  Imagine that the next breath you take is your last.   You; along with all your troubles, cares, and heartaches; and yes, successes, joys, and happiness too; are gone.  No more.  Finished.

Now, celebrate and grieve your life.

Then, take another breath.  It's a whole new life waiting to be lived.  But, it only last as long as the next breath.

And the next one, and the next one, and............

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