What would you do?
Well beside get old, very slowly! Would you worry less about the past (probably) and more about the future (probably)? Would this present moment seem less or more important amidst those million other moments you would experience? Would you still seek to make the most of each minute of every day? Would you finally find time to meditate (oh and clean out the pantry)!
I came across the idea of thinking about living for 1000 years in a comment on a recent Tiny Buddha post and, well it got me thinking. I’ve taken the long view in terms of thinking of our inter-generational legacy but I’ve never been one to covet immortality, which must be something like living 1000 years – I imagine I’d feel very tired.
I think most of us have probably pondered what we would do if tomorrow was our last day (on earth), if we only had a month, or a year to live. I’ve thought of what I’d squeeze out of life, the very last juices of it. I’ve thought of how simple it might be to just live in the moment, and then the next, and the next, until there were no more – each moment as bright and beautiful as the last was and the next would be until that would be all, end of story. I’ve zoomed in on the legacy I’d leave my children, the zest and earnest with which I’d create memories with (and for) them, the lifetime of love that I’d cram into whatever lifetime I had. I’ve frozen in the time the faces I’d see first, last and always.
So what would you do if instead of facing your mortality, the last suck of the marrow, you were able to come close to the concept of immortality, living a life measured in centuries not decades? Would you have a more measured existence? Would the sense of time on your side leave you living slowly, savouring each moment, luxuriating in life?
Without the ‘rush’ to make the most of things, would you ironically have the time for life to make the most of you?
And then what would happen if everyone or most people at least, started living into their 900’s? Would your perspective change again – would you start comparing your very long life with others in relative terms – that person’s life a little longer but then who’s counting the last few decades by the end of it – another person’s life that much fuller, but why make the comparison, what does it serve and who decides what full is anyway? Would judgement and comparison follow you throughout your very long life, just as surely as we meter and evaluate our shorter lifespans against both the average and the extraordinary?
Do we always seek to compare regardless of the yardstick? If most people died young, would it make our own deaths any easier – would it make enduring the loss of our loved ones any more bearable? If most people lived boring lives (cue judgement) would it make our own lives, lived the same as always, suddenly seem more exciting?
If we can suspend the judgement of comparison and suspend the measurement of time (for all but practical purposes) then maybe life will make the most of us.
Without the urge to compare, without the desire to measure, we can just get on with living – for as long as it lasts.
I’ve been experiencing this very strong feeling lately that I’m at the exact mid-point in my life. If this is true, then I’ll live to 88 years old. That sounds like a good age, especially since double 8 is very lucky in Chinese tradition, and especially since it means I get to live as long as I’ve already lived, over again. My grandfather lived to 88 and it seemed to me he lived to a ripe, old age. And he lived well.
There’s something very comforting in this sense of life symmetry I’m feeling now, even though I know the next 44 years (if I’m lucky to get to live them) will be very different to the 44 years I’ve been lucky enough to have lived so far.
I’m at the balance point (some might call it the tipping point). Even my age itself is an evenly balanced number.
I can choose to label from now on a downhill slide, to compare myself with younger people and inevitably make myself feel old, to pine for my younger physical self and feel regret, to scrutinise wrinkles, to measure out each day as though I’m on the countdown to death, gasping for a last breath.
Or I can choose to see my life as full, even if the glass is halfway drunk. I’ve been lucky to have drunk so much. I can choose to keep on drinking as though the elixir of life will last for 1000 years, sipping slowly, savouring each drop as though its the very last.
Comparison is just a waste of time, unless it gives us the perspective to live a fuller life.
And of course life is not measured in time, but in its fullness.
If I get my 44 years more, then I’m determined to grow in wisdom rather than worrying about age, to go easy on the comparisons but be open to new perspectives, to live moments rather than counting days, to still time through meditation regularly and to clean the pantry only very occasionally.