Today I'm at my folks. My dad is dying. At this point he may have two days or two months but it doesn't seem as though he has long. He's shutting down.
I am sad. And perhaps a little more shamelessly sentimental than normal. This has reminded me of how few decades we get and how little time we have to waste. It provoked me to articulate what actually matters.
Obvious. Cliche. And yet essential. It's so easy to let other emotions - from wanting to look proper to holding a grudge to getting distracted by irritation - obstruct this. We have very little time and very little energy with which to do anything. Plus, it really does seem true that love transforms us. A person never develops as rapidly and as delightedly as when they are the infant or small child whose most pervasive experience of others is through expressions of love. We hug, kiss, and chuckle at babies and children and their response is to quickly become smarter and more able than us.
This week I was walking down the streets of Boulder with two co-workers I consider good friends and I was temporarily overcome. It was 40 degrees. Leaves were on the ground. I could not only feel the cold air come into my mouth like a crisp apple, but I could nearly taste the smoke from fireplaces. It was so beautiful, such an iconic moment of beauty and seasonal change.
Reveling is something a person doesn't even have to be strong or smart to do. A person can do it simply by being present to the miracle of the moment. Every day there are a few such moments and you can choose to marvel at them or miss them. (If there were more than a few such moments we would be overwhelmed. It's best they come sparingly.)
My first thought was that I'd like to change the world. I still think that we could create an economy that proves that economic progress and quality of life are not at odds. There is so much potential we're leaving lie fallow. I doubt that I'll ever give up on that aspiration.
But I also realized that change is so important to love or reveling. We have an expectation of who someone should be and when they are not, rather than change our expectation, we withdraw our love. We prepare for one kind of career and the economy - with reckless disregard for our expectations - veers in an unexpected direction, and rather than change we feel rejected, work harder to impose what we've come to feel defines us. Rather than hold ideas or beliefs, we let them seize us and fail to change. Failure to change means missing the opportunity to revel in the moment as it is, miss the opportunity to love someone for who they are. And here's the thing about the big, complex world and our little minds: the rich complexity of an actual person or moment will always be more capable of provoking us to love or reveling than our small preconceptions ever could.
Changing ourselves or changing the world - I think that these both bear evidence that we're engaged in the world, engaged so deeply that we and it - us and them - are inescapably influenced by the other. Change is proof of connection.
I likely have just a few decades left. I don't have time to waste, so I need to stay focused on just a few things. This is my bucket list: love, revel, and change.
Thank you reading.