Another year, now one of many for me, is about to pass. Life flows incessantly forward. More than ever, I’m thankful for every moment in the present, wanting to indulge, pamper, and exhaust it for its sensory fullness, or like a bowl of chocolate ice cream topped with fresh strawberries, swirling its sweet coldness slowly in my mouth, titillating my tastebuds, in vain effort to prolong its goodness.
I wake to day, rejoicing in its newness, a privilege I no longer take for granted.
Recently I’ve been in contact through Facebook with a member of my 1958 class at Newburyport High School in Massachusetts. It turns out she’s also the class secretary. The other day, she shared that of the 158 graduates, 51 have died. There might be more.
In February I turn 77, so I found this news sobering.
I don’t know how I even got this far. The average lifespan for males in the U. S. is 76.3. My once older brother, so full of life, died on his birthday. He was 47. I’ve had friends who died younger.
There’s no rhyme or reason, no logic you can apply. So much of life is simply a matter of accident, or having luck on your side. Contingency, or incertitude in the weave of randomness, defines the wise among us in a cosmos absent of Mind.
On several occasions, I’ve missed death by inches, or like in Maryland in 1983 when I foolishly tried to pass a lumbering tractor trailer going up a steep hill, only to find another vehicle in the outside lane coming at me at rocket speed, forcing me to apply the gas pedal for all I was worth and thread the needle, barely, while in my ears, the scream of tires from a careening car, struggling for control.
I taught poetry for some forty years and I know full-well its bottom line is mortality. Think Shakespeare, Keats, Dickinson and Hopkins.
Yesterday, I came upon Stephen Batchelor’s thoughtful, eloquent summation on life’s ephemerality in my reading:
Life is a groundless ground: no sooner does it appear, than it disappears, only to renew itself, then immediately break up and vanish again. It pours forth endlessly,
like the river of Heraclitus into which one cannot step twice. If you try to grasp it, it slips away between your fingers (Confession of a Buddhist Atheist).
And so back to the moment, this moment, its showering of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
Teach me to be mindful.
To enjoy what I cannot hold.
3 thoughts on “Teach me to measure all my days”
…so beautiful in so many ways, Ralph – characteristically so. Thanks!
By now we know we obviously disagree about ‘this and that,’ but I pray you know I love and respect you – uniquely.
Where you write the following, I am tempted to bring my clumsy hesitations, in no less clumsy form.
You wrote: “…There’s no rhyme or reason, no logic you can apply…” Is there a kind of presumptive slippage between the first and second half of that sentence? In other words, are our nagging epistemic limits here tacitly confused with a kind of absolute/perpetual absence of meaning (stretching beyond the present)? “…So much of life is simply a matter of accident, or having luck on your side…”
“…Contingency, or the absence of certitude in the weave of randomness, created and defines us, ultimately distributing our fates…”
Wow. What faith you have in the absolutized random! Would it be better to simply talk, as does the author of Job, about the great ratio of difference between our senses and the absolute?
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Don’t discount yourself, Kevin. You do too. Just look at your art.
Thank you for reply, Kevin.. I think of you often and prize our friendship.