Life in its individual expression is finite. Nearly all of us accept that. Living things reproduce themselves, so life goes on in that way. But, for the individual, life begins and, after a time, it comes to an end. An important thing is that, for most of us, we do not know when this ending will come. It is indeterminate.
Because the end time is unknown, we have the illusion, in the immediate, that life will just go on, is just going on. We are alive, we are full of plans, we are the centrepiece of the circle we have built around ourselves; it seems like it will go on forever. Certainly, in our younger years, the question of an ending hardly ever arises in our minds. Our lifetime stretches out before us into the dimly perceived future.
Am I discussing a question of universal import, or am I obsessed with my personal condition? Yoohoo! Do I still have you with me?
Even for those of us who are older, particularly those of us who are active, seemingly in good health, our lifetime also appears to be elastic. The events inhabiting our lifetime fill our consciousness. But we are aware of statistics. We see that our ranks are thinning. Some, even many, of those contemporary companions with whom we began our journey are missing at roll call. These realities do give us pause. How many more beautiful sunrises, how many more flaming sunsets will we witness? The languorous minutes of an afternoon with friends in inviting surroundings, imbibing all the consumables that yield to us their potential for pleasure, absent the pain to which all flesh is heir, how many more times will those unique experiences be ours?
I am exhilarated by being a part of the essential life event, the experience of being a living, breathing, feeling being. I know not if we are the sole sentient creatures in this universe, but I am grateful that it has fallen into my fortunate lifetime to experience this place and this time. How many of you out there must feel the same? None of us is guaranteed a life solely made up of music and roses. The inverse is true for great masses of humanity. But each of us, in some small measure, finds those moments of existence, those instants when we bless the stars that we are present, that we are here. It is inherent in being alive, in the human life experience. We really know only the present. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is speculation. I tell myself to ignore the extraneous. Breathe in and out; find those elements in our current experience that give us enjoyment in this instant of being alive.
Today, here in Vancouver, harvest time continues for tender fruits of all kinds. Sumptuous fruit, which for most of the year command a king’s ransom for purchase, is still being offered in the grocery outlets for a mere bagatelle. Earlier in the summer, mounds of red, ripe strawberries were being displayed in our markets in the form of architectural wonders, tempting us to reach out and bring those fruity edifices crashing down as we indulge the urge to taste. They were there, stressing the most disciplined. Blueberries, which, for most of the year, are retailed by the ounce, have been urged on us by the pound. Peaches, nectarines and melons of all kind compete for our attention on the groaning boards. We are overwhelmed with nature’s bounty, what is here and what is yet to be on offer, as the season progresses. These are just the ordinary things of the seasonal round, but they are a soft whisper of the simpler pleasures lavished on those of us who are alive.
Consumables are just an asterisk, a footnote, compared with the joys of human companionship. Were we blessed with tasks in life that stretched our potential, labor that was worthwhile? Did we find a person in our lives with whom we dared to show our essential vulnerability? A parent, a sibling, a friend, a teacher, a lover, a creature, with whom we found a basis for growth that might lead to healthy adulthood, with whom we distilled a shared experience we will remember unto death? Did we find a place and people where we felt that sense of peace, identification and commitment that determined the paths we would follow during the rest of our lives? Do the beauties of the natural world we inhabit bring home to us how tiny an element we are in the cycle of life of which we are a part? Have you looked up at the stars lately, preferably in a place where they are not blotted out by our man-made illumination, and understood just where man stands in the greater scheme of things?
We may be infinitesimal in our universe, less than the insects beneath our feet in the world man is astride like a colossus, but our tiny lives are full of meaning for us in the sheltered universe we seek to construct around ourselves. How central to us are our individual lifetimes. For most of us, our consciousness is concerned primarily with little else. How could it be otherwise? We mirror the behaviors of all the living species on our planet, seeking to ensure our survival and enhance our lifestyles. It is written in our DNA.
For some, the vision is a little broader, but even for them, the object is the enhancement of our lives in the broadest sense.
Let us toast the now of our lifetimes! To life!
Max Roytenberg is a poet, writer and blogger. An octegenarian, originally from Winnipeg, he is newly returned to Canada from Ireland and enjoying Vancouver with his bride.