Hello to everyone reading this now, and to all of those who will read it during the thousand years of my millennial reign. I want you to perform a little exercise for me. It won’t take much effort, but I will need you to stick to it; don’t look at your phone, don’t watch TV, don’t browse the internet, don’t listen to music, don’t do anything other than what I’m about to have you do. Now, pay attention:
Read these steps and then follow them after read them.
Close your eyes and clear your mind.
Sit and do nothing for the next 60 seconds.
To do this, count “1 Mississippi” and then “2 Mississipi” all the way up to 60. That’s all I want you to focus on while you’re sitting there, with your eyes closed.
Start now, and upon completion of the exercise, read on.
I thank you for two reasons: The first is that you actually did the exercise (if you didn’t, shame on you). The second reason is that you gave me 60 seconds of a very finite life. You trusted me with a full minute of your lifespan. That doesn’t sound like much, though, does it? I mean, there are 525,600 minutes in a year alone (thanks, RENT!), so donating one of those to try my experiment doesn’t seem like much. Yet it is quite a lot, because of the way we perceive time. While you were doing the exercise, time seemed to drag on, didn’t it? Granted, sixty seconds isn’t a whole lot of time to focus on something, but in this day and age, it’s probably difficult for one to do it without feeling the need to resort to looking at one’s phone, browsing the internet, listening to music, reading, or any other number of the myriad ways in which we distract ourselves.
All of this eats up time, though. It eats away at those minutes, taking them and destroying them. You can’t recycle minutes, they don’t go into your next month, and once they’re gone, they’re gone forever, and by that I mean forever forever, not just the euphemism we use when we just mean “a really long time,” but they are gone from us without ever returning for the remainder of the life of our universe, and even then who knows what may happen beyond that?
It’s something that tends to stick in the metaphorical craw that is my subconscious mind. Most of us, as human beings, get anywhere from 60 to 80 years to live. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. It is rare that a human being lives beyond 90, and even moreso at 100 years, no insult intended to the writers of Five for Fighting‘s “100 years.” So, 60-80 years, with the first 20 being voted to education/growth, the middle 20 being devoted to building a career and family, and the last 20 being devoted to enjoying life how one wants it, with anything after that a nice bonus.
I’ve seen the big picture, I’ve taken the long view. A human lifespan is nothing in the grand scheme of things. On the road of time that is the lifespan of the universe, a human life wouldn’t even be a pebble, wouldn’t even qualify as a crack in the pavement. Human civilization isn’t even a road bump, and that encompasses so many human lives. The universe has existed for billions of years, and will exist for trillions more, though that existence will change form in a number of ways. Human civilization has risen, and will fall, and the universe will go on. It is inevitable.
So, then, having taken the long view, having seen the big picture, for what reason does one live? Well, I can’t answer that in a large sense, because there is no reason. We’re here because we’re here. We’re here because this is how the methods of evolution produced us; it created a species that is self aware, knows that it has a time limit, and then sets it loose to dwell on that with its quite powerful brain. Oh joy.
So what you do, is you make life what you want it. You find meaning in things that bring you meaning. Love works pretty well for most people; whether it be love of money, love of people, love of food, there’s something there for somebody. Of course, the long view can be nothing short of torture on people who are lonely, or poor, and so that is why I’m a humanist. I want life to be enjoyable for people, to be something positive, something that makes life feel like it’s worth living, because the alternative is nothing, and that is unacceptable as long as you’re still breathing.
So take a moment to love somebody; you don’t have to make out with them, or try to marry them, just say hello, be kind, be polite, offer them something, show them some compassion, and generosity. Give them another reason to keep going, even when they feel that life has become empty and futile, because it only is empty and futile if one decides it no longer has meaning. Giving meaning can be just as important as giving food, or shelter.
Love one another, and be kind to one another. Make life joyful. 🙂
Until next time,