In life there are moments when the course of an entire interpersonal relationship takes place in just a few seconds and yet it’s so poignant that you remember it for years. Appreciating a glance, a laugh, a smile from a perfect stranger is a big part of life. Knowing that you’ll walk away and never see that person again makes it all the more vivid a memory. Trust me when I say you can choose to build your life around these moments and nothing more.
My fondest memory is of something that didn’t actually happen.
When you are inside a digital world, the bounds are set, every edge is a polygon with a picture overlaid on it. It’s digital. It’s a list of facts that make it the same every time.
This actually all really happened last night, though I may be guilty of adding metaphor. :]
I’m sitting in an old car. My arm reaches out the window, feeling the cool night breeze rush through my fingers.
Next to me and behind are my friends; laughing and smiling like we haven’t in a while as music blasts on the speakers and we talk about all the things that have been going on in our lives lately. Empty energy drinks and food are scattered over the floor, testaments to the fact that we’ve already put hundreds of miles on the odometer tonight. Life goes by so fast you hardly notice.
We watch as the dark, enigmatic mountain road curves and sprawls out before us; we love the rush of driving a little too fast into the unknown. We can never quite see what’s waiting around the next corner, what’s coming up next. But we’ve all lived and lost too much to worry about letting caution ruin the truth of the moment. We live for moments like these. Stepping outside of the bounds means anything can happen. The adrenaline gives way to a sort of comfort that only comes with a degree of anxiousness.
Nothing gambled means nothing gained, right? We’re never really afraid. We’ve all done this a million times before, but no matter how many times you peek over the edge into what you don’t know, it always feels like the first time.
Hours later we find ourselves at a boat launch. After the prerequisite donuts in the parking lot, we get out and walk to the end of the docks. Jutting precariously out into the water over the ice-cold, murky depths below, we imagine what it would be like to float away into the unknown. What adventures might we find if we left what we know behind us? We imagine leaving our problems behind and sailing across the horizon to something new, refusing to consider that new problems would come with new situations. This isn’t the time for practicality, dreams are what we live for.
We speed away and pick up another friend before heading back into the mountains. On top of table mountain we stop at a grave yard and get out to walk around. It’s a full moon. The eerie sound of the wind rattling chain link fences and rustling through the trees permeates the bright, silent midnight air. We see a grave marked “Unknown.” Next to it an elegant marble headstone engraved with a name none of us have heard. I see that she died a hundred years ago.”How different are these two graves,” I wonder, “That’s going to be all of us one day. Eventually no one will even remember we existed.”
What really matters then, I ask myself.
As we drive away, we pass a trailer park. One of my friends tells us he grew up there. He hated it, and he wanted more. Years later; he has a job, a new truck, a house in the city, and goes mobbing with his friends.
Maybe it doesn’t matter if anyone remembers us a hundred years from now. Maybe what matters is how we spend our passing moments like these with the people we love. Maybe it’s about what mark we all leave on each other. And whether we make the world around us a better place or a worse place, or worse yet; whether we don’t leave a worthwhile mark anywhere at all.
Perhaps the most important thing is how honest we are with ourselves and others, how hard we pursue happiness and truth in our lives, and whether we have perfect love and perfect trust and good relationships in our lives, or if instead we just sit and dream about finding it.
Life happens so fast.
Each of us is has a world behind our eyes, infinitely complex and enigmatic; full of hopes and dreams and fears and regrets. It’s so amazing being able to peer into someone else’s world. It makes it all worth it when our paths cross and we find perfect moments together where all the problems and fears and monsters in our worlds don’t matter.
Those perfect moments are always so fleeting. They come and go in an instant, but that instant is like a world all in its own.
You spend years thinking about moments, contemplating what you could have done differently to make the moment last a little longer. But in the end all we have is our memory of the moments when nothing mattered but the joy of a smile or the feel of a hand in yours. The heart that tried its hardest for that one last beat, or the gentle kiss on the back of your neck.
They all had to end, and there was sorrow and remorse and there were tears and the writhing, insatiable agony of regret. But you looked up because more moments always came.
Eventually all you can remember is the photobook in your mind of the blurry pictures of the moments you treasure most. You wish you could go back. You know if you could just reach it, you could stretch the lost moments out and fix everything that ever went wrong.
But you can’t.
And eventually you learn to put them neatly in your photobook and wipe the tears and struggle to find the will to take the next breath, hoping it will lead you to another moment worth crying for.
Somewhere in the forest a rabbit is born. Poofy and cuddly, it snuggles up to its mother for warmth in the cold night. A family began today. They know the passion and emotion of companionship. They grow and learn and taste the green plants and cool streams of the wild.
Somewhere in the forest, a bear is born. It struggles and writhes and opens its eyes and sees the world around it. It feels the soft dirt of the ground and the cold stone of the cave, it smells the scent of the wild and the taste of hunger.
As I watch, the bear goes out into the world looking for food. It spots something it has never seen before; a family of rabbits.
Carnage ensues; the family of rabbits becomes dinner for the bear cub and his family. The rabbits meet the needs of the bears’ bodies. The tissues and proteins and molecules become part of the bears. The life taken from the rabbits adds to theirs.
Years pass, and the bear dies of old age. As his body decays, grass grows; plants consume him. The life he lost is added to theirs. A new family of rabbits consumes the fresh, green grass and its life becomes theirs.
The same thing happens on a different scale all over the planet. Death and life cycle and chase one another. When I die, my body will decay and my molecules will be given up to the new life being born around me. The Greeks called this Gaia, the mother earth. We are all born of the same parts and when we die those parts will rearrange into new people and plants and animals. We are quite literally all the same, and all life is precious.
The measure of our life is how we affect those around us. The only true sin is hurting others.
Love and truth are the only worthwhile endeavors.