“…Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
— Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day“
Life is wild.
Though… It is sometimes hard to see it.
Especially since life can masquerade as being quite mundane.
Get up. Go to work. Go to bed. Go to work again.
Make food. Eat food. Wash dishes. Make food again.
Laundry. Laundry. Laundry.
Even the most thrilling parts of life – like taking a vacation to some distant place – can become an annual drudgery of planning and bills.
And in the meantime, time passes.
In school my kids, each in succession, learned the song to help them remember the cycle and order of the days: (sing) Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
We give ourselves structure. Our society has laws. Even nature has her mundane way with rules. Sun up. Sun down. Repeat.
These are the apparent confines of life. The red-tailed hawk in our backyard glides on the wind, calls out. Dives for a rodent. But she stays close to home, and eats what nature has planned for her.
In life there is one linear equation. And that is our own consciousness. With all the cycles of nature and society, life itself is the sentence that ends in a most definitive period.
All of the Equation
When the oncologist said the word “WEEKS” to my mother, it was a kind of Hollywood moment, where the use of the word “thunderstruck” was correct and appropriate.
My mother never subscribed to the idea of “old age.” She was young and healthy, despite any evidence to the contrary. That it would end was an utter surprise.
As my mother deteriorated, I begged the hospice nurse to reveal to me the future:
What will it look like? When will it be? How will she be at the end?
We must know, obliquely, that being human means committing also to the “ashes to ashes” part of the equation.
Too easy it is to forget that life ends.
Too easy it is to be hypnotized by the mundane, letting the cycles of time obfuscate the passing of time.
Life is wild. All the possibilities exist – even if you feel burdened by age, money, marriage, children, work or some other set of rules or restrictions.
I am a wild optimist.
I believe that if you want to move to Paris, you can do it. I believe if you want to be a doctor, you can do it. I believe if you want to change the world, you can do it.
I’ve been told by cynical friends that certain parts of the equation – like more money and more time and being younger — have to exist in order for life to move toward dreams.
But there are too many examples of people living in Paris, of people being doctors, of folks changing the world to argue against their reality.
What do you want to do with your one, wild and precious life?
All the possibilities hover in your peripheral vision – just outside the cycles of habit and the mundane … waiting to believed and recognized.
Written for and read at the Unitarian Society of New Haven
Sunday, February 22, 2015