What if you found out that today was the last day of your life? How would that affect the way you experienced everything? Would you see and hear the world with fresh eyes and ears, the way a newborn baby does, everything new and wondrous? Would you notice the colors of the trees and flowers, the vast expanse of sky, the music of birdsong, the faces and voices of those you love? Would habit and routine fall away, to be replaced by an appreciation of the miracles we live with on a daily basis?
This thought passed through my mind recently as I walked among the autumn-colored trees at Mt. Auburn. I realized that I was a bit distracted, only half-aware of my surroundings, and I consciously made an effort to become fully present. I sat on a wooden bench and closed my eyes for a few minutes, and when I opened them, there was the world before me in full vibrant living color. My heart reminded me of how fleeting each moment is and how extraordinary every detail. As I looked around with tears in my eyes, I remembered Mary Oliver’s words: “I want to live in this world as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get to be alive and know it.” Exactly.
We have the opportunity each day to remember that, to live it fully. That’s why we came here, to wake each morning and see sunrise, to pass through our days with awe and celebration. We are all strangers on this planet, slowly recognizing that we are actually family. Whether you think of humans as souls, angels, ETs, or just physical organisms, there is a thread of connection among us. A thread that links us to the stars and the galaxies and to all living matter. We are tiny beings in the cosmos, with one life to live here on Planet Earth. One second in universal timelessness. I don’t want to forget that, ever.
As I continued my walk with Mary Oliver’s perspective fresh in my mind, I found that everything took on a shimmering aliveness, as if I had never seen it before. Gratitude filled my heart. I know I have the opportunity to press this inner “refresh” button each moment of my life. Many of us experience a renewed outlook if we go through a health crisis or lose someone we love. Or if a particular birthday reminds us of aging. Life becomes precious beyond words. We realize at the deepest level how little “time” we have in the greater scheme of things.
In human-created time, today is always the last day of your life because there is really only the present moment. If I am not fully awake and in love with life now, will I ever be? Today I am “alive and know it,” with all my heart and soul. May that continue. And may each of us feel the sweet unrepeatable perfection of everything visible and invisible throughout our lives.
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