Live every day as your last?
The rubric to this post is oft-quoted or, certainly, it comes up in certain mythic and/or spiritual and/or ‘be-all-you-can-be’ circles.
But think about it.
Have you laid next to or been close to a dying person in their final days and hours?
And not to make a ghoulish, slightly nihilistic, less still, insensitive point but they’re rarely at their best. In fact, it’s a gargantuan struggle for many and so often family members would rather it was at an end.
Perhaps this isn’t what the “live every day…” message is supposed to mean.
I know. It’s the peak experience or Flow expression — see in particular the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — that means we’re hard-wired to be and to become the very best version of ourselves every moment of every day.
But that wouldn’t work either. Pretty soon the endorphins would stop running through your narrowed arteries and everything would feel the same — meh!
Where then does that leave you?
That’s a great question, given in particular that you’re not really in charge of any of it. Nope, don’t worry, I’m not going to get into a tendentious spat about free will and in any event, I feel that that subject has been (like the “live every day…” trope) done to death.
Think about it like this.
Everything changes. That includes your physical body, your thoughts, moods and sensations. Being aware of the awareness that notices these things is, perhaps, a better way to be than allowing everything to wash over you. Being mindful if you like. But again, it’s easy, too easy, to be deceived that that is another elixir that might make your life better. Just being aware will do.
And then try to imagine a world where the objects you took to know so well no longer had labels — after all these labels were not innate and we had to be taught them both as a survival mechanism but to bring meaning and order to our life. If you start changing the words about or inventing a new lexicon, pretty soon you might lose the ability to self identify with some of the non Lizard Brain reactions and you’ll see things differently.
Have I lost you yet?
The thing is, if you start down this path of self-enquiry where you recognise that everything changes and what you see may not be what you thought was the case, speaking personally, I find it hard not to conclude that it’s all a mystery.
Now I’m not talking about the beatific or the numinous but the plain, simple truth that trying to live your life one way, and not the other is pretty damn hard and harder still when you might, like I’ve done (and not as a fatalist or misanthrope) accepted that none of it really matters.
Of course, what I’m describing, in my pithy, slightly clunky way, doesn’t sell — let alone scale — and certainly doesn't fit into any category I know of spiritual categorisation. If there’s any connection it might be found in the non-duality prism but given how argumentative that cohort can be, I’d rather stay away from that label.
If I was pressed about life and living, I’d say it’s this: a big, unknowable mystery and the longer I dwell in trying to pick it apart, the more challenged I become, particularly as regards our extant, anthropocentric situation. If I can turn myself on to anything, it’s simply to accept that this is all there is and leave it at that. Hardly revelatory, but I’ll take it thanks.
But in the end, as I’ve said so often before, how you live your life is how you live it. If you need some pocket divination to get you through the murky days then fine. Likewise, if you want to run yourself ragged trying to dial in the peak experience, then knock yourself out. It’s all much of a muchness to me.
All I’m interested in is continuing to be troubled aloud and (if that’s even possible) trying to make sense of a world that seems hell-bent on blowing the good ship earth to smithereens, that or taking a wrecking ball to everything that was once sacred and true.