One way to appreciate virtually any moment of your life is to pretend that the whole thing is already over. Your life came and went a long time ago, but for some reason you’ve just been sent back to this random moment, here in this office chair, or in line at Home Depot. It isn’t clear why you’ve been sent back. Maybe it was a cosmic accounting error, or a boon from a playful god. All you know is that you’re here again, walking the earth, having been inexplicably returned to the temporary and mysterious state of being alive.
When you view life as something you’re returning to — rather than something that has never not been happening — it feels like the gift it perhaps always should. It’s just so interesting to be alive and experiencing things, and choosing what to do during those experiences. Seeing life as the curious and rare condition it IS gives even ordinary events the character of a brilliant film. A small beam of sunlight on the table flutters with the shadows of leaves. While you fold laundry, your phone lights up: a friend texts you a cheesy joke she knows you will appreciate. A short-lived party of bubbles appears and disappears when you fill a glass of water from the tap. A thin mist pours from the open freezer onto your calloused hands. It’s all spectacular, just because it’s happening, and once it’s over you would greatly miss it if you could. So why not miss it now? Or at least understand why you would.
Can you believe that this condition – of being in the world, of feeling stuff and doing stuff — was once happening all the time? Remember being able to open windows and pet dogs and wash your hands in warm water? What an amazing time that was. No matter what happened, whether life was decidedly going “well” or not, it was always so eventful, and you got to decide what to do in each moment of it. It’s all over, of course, which is too bad. You didn’t realize at the time how small a window it was, and you can’t believe you spent a lot of it complaining. However, for right now at least, for some reason, you’re back. You have at least this moment to enjoy being alive. There may be more coming afterward, but you can’t count on that. Not this time anyway.
There will not always be things happening. You will not always have the ability to experience the world and respond how you please. But – by the grace of whoever — you do right now. Whatever the metaphysics of it really is, the point is that the window is small, and if you’re in it right now, that should probably be regarded as a profoundly lucky thing, whether it’s your first time here or you’ve been sent back for another tour. In real life (not this thought experiment), the window is open right here, right now, continuously until it’s closed for good. It’s hard to feel the luckiness of being alive while life is still happening. This is one way to contact that sense of good fortune reliably — see the moment as an inexplicable return to the wild and spectacular condition of being alive, which was once so abundant you forgot to appreciate it. This experience you’re having right now, of being here in a body, experiencing the world and choosing how to respond — is gone, and by the law of reflection, you only now know what you had.
But by some unbelievable stroke of luck, here it is again. . .
Peace and Love, Jim