I posted on Monday, and lo, it is Friday, and nothing memorable has been accomplished (to paraphrase Thoreau). Seriously, when I was young, summer seemed to last forever, days stretched to infinity, and there was always time for everything. I spent great swaths of time playing on the swingset in the backyard, rollerskating with Janice Gill, and curling up with Tolkien and Jane Eyre. And there was still time in the evening left over to play with the kids in the cul-de-sac and watch endless episodes of "Gilligan's Island." Now it seems like the days zip by, summer is over before I can get ready for it, and the person in the mirror is looking more and more like my mom. (Which is a good thing, mind you, but still startling when I still feel about fifteen.)
I once took a class at the U of Toronto, and our wonderful professor died of a heart attack right in the middle of the semester. I remember being stunned---How could someone die in the middle of the school year? He was in the middle of writing a book. He hadn't given us our mid-term exam yet. We were just about to discuss Isaiah, the best part of the Bible! After all, that was the whole reason I'd signed up for the course--because I'd heard he was an excellent scholar on Isaiah. Now I'd never know what he could have taught me.
Somehow (stupid as it sounds) I had just assumed that death would come when you were sort of geared up for it. During school break. After the paperwork was done. Once all the ducks were lined up obediently in a row. When the kids were grown and independent. It started me thinking about all the half-finished projects I have crammed in my closet and basement that someone would have to clean out when I keeled over mid-stride. What was I leaving behind? More importantly, what was I spending my time doing?
These thoughts could make you refrain from starting any big project. Not plant the garden. Not get a mortgage. Not start a journal (What if I don't have time to burn it before I die?) Or they could have the opposite effect and make you jump into a fever of activity, trying to squeeze all the happiness and accomplishment out of life that you can while you can. I'd rather they make me seek a middle road: calmly carrying out the activities at hand, but paying more attention to the journey and getting less hung up on the destination. That destination isn't guaranteed, and even if it were, the only way to reach it is present moment by present moment. When it's my turn to leave behind the half-written book and the astonished students, I want to be at peace with the future, content with the present, and satisfied with the past.