Is it too direct or macabre to suggest that in a very real way, we die every night? Perhaps a more accurate phrasing might be the day dies — but that doesn’t fully capture the beauty of the moment, does it? Because with that day goes a part of us that will forevermore be gone. This part of us, this day we are experiencing and who we are in this moment — it ends, never to exist again. We can remember it, mourn it, and celebrate it, but we cannot relive it. And like a Phoenix from the ashes of that day, hopefully well-lived, we rise each morning anew. Alive. Largely unwritten. It’s there, in that moment of first consciousness, that we face the single most important and difficult decision of our day:
Which way do we face?
Do we face backwards, seeing only the days that have past: familiar, comfortable, predictable? Do we walk through the curtain of time in an effort to relive it all once more, rising, engaging our routine, doing again what we have done for many days before this one?
Or, do we turn forward to a script unwritten, to a life yet un-lived, and choose a different level of awareness, a different experience, a different courageous act of life and living?
I first heard it from my friend Tom, who asked: “At the end of a year, have you lived 365 days, or have you lived the same day 365 times?” It takes courage to stand in the same place you stand every day — your house, your office, your town — and recognize that you have choices for how you will engage in the world around you. It takes courage to step outside of the box those around you have put you in, albeit with your placid permission. It takes courage to think a new thought, to change your mind, to evolve your thinking, your dreaming, your being.
It’s easier to live 365 days the same; it’s what everyone else expects of us. It’s easier for others when we are predictable and manageable. We don’t really have to think anymore — we figured that part out. We begin making excuses and justifications for how things are. And, like David Foster Wallace points out in his commencement address ‘fish’ story, we stop noticing the water in which we are swimming and we simply accept it for what it is without question, with all its frustrations and annoyances and monotony.
But it is that reality that needs courageous questioning. Like a rocket ship breaking earth’s gravitational pull, it can be a monumental effort to think, act, feel, bedifferently from yesterday.
It can feel like we are a Phoenix rising out of the ashes. Alive. Stronger. Fully awakened. And ready.
It can be scary, and it can be exhilarating. The question is, which way will we chose?
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