“Who wants to live forever?
Who dares to love forever?”
In the Western world, time tells us when we are born and when we die. Based on calculated averages, we know approximately how long we’ll live. We go through our lives with a clock ticking away in the background, measuring out the years we have lived and those we have left. This “knowledge” influences everything we say or do, every decision we make. In fact, it permeates our entire culture: education, employment, medicine, insurance, religion, marriage, law, property. Our lives are shaped by time’s constraints. Yet physicists tell us that time and space are human inventions, a way to quantify something that is unquantifiable.
So if time is not “real,” but only a mental construct, do birth and death exist at all? And what about aging? In his book By Human Design, Gregg Braden describes meeting a monk in Tibet who could tell him what year he was born, but only after asking the current year could he give his age: 93. Time in terms of measuring one’s life passage does not exist for Tibetan monks and nuns. They live moment to moment, and each moment is eternal. Thus longevity and other measurements based on time have no meaning for them.
In the last few months, the world has faced death on a grand scale as the coronavirus has swept around the globe, taking life after life. Many of us have felt as if we were living on “borrowed time,” hanging precipitously on a cliff edge waiting for the latest statistics about the death tolls, country by country, state by state, city by city. “Longevity” was not on our minds; surviving the week, the month, and hopefully the year, were closer to what we were thinking. When everything in your life has been cleared out, and you stand alone staring into the emptiness, plans for the future have little meaning. Suddenly, your life becomes one precious breath after another, one moment after another. Because there is nothing else but living in the present, appreciating every second of life. Forever is now.
Perhaps we are being schooled in the highest Tibetan wisdom through the unlikely vehicle of a deadly virus. God moves in mysterious ways, as the saying goes. And humanity has certainly been in dire need of higher wisdom as it races headlong toward self-destruction in a multitude of areas, from systemic racism to environmental crisis. If each person stopped for a moment and looked at their life as if they only had five minutes to live, what kind of choices would they make? COVID-19 has put every one of us on the planet in that position. My guess is that most people would not run to the bank or the mall but to the loving presence of a family member or close friend. In my last moments on Earth, I would certainly choose love over anything else in the material world.
Do we become wiser when we are face to face with death, with eternity? When we realize how tenuous our hold is on life and living, do we begin to see that each moment is a gift and a blessing, each person a miracle? In the midst of this global pandemic, humanity has the chance to awaken at last to the collective wisdom of the ages: That time is an illusion, and there is only Now. That separation and otherness are also illusions, and there is only One. In this moment is the only forever we will ever know and the greatest love we will ever experience. When the entire world stops and takes a collective breath together, forever is revealed in the love we see in one another’s eyes. Timeless loving awareness. Maybe that is what an unstoppable virus came to teach us.