Saturday, January 05, 2013

This One and Precious Life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild & precious life? - Mary Oliver

I have been thinking about the way I live my life. It is not unlike the way millions of other people live - I wake up, I shower, I work at something or another, whether that's my writing or my new work of teaching or cleaning the house. I fix meals and eat them, watch TV, and read books and magazines. I love on my husband. I fret and worry what I think is an inordinate amount over things that are out of my control, but I know many others who do that.

As I approach the half-century mark of my life, I must ask myself: what are you doing? What is the meaning of it all, the point of being? The reason for being here.

As I look around at my life and the society I live in, I see a lot of good. I see people helping one another, I see love and compassion. I see hugs and kisses, smiles and happiness. I also see a lot of greed, envy, and evil. I worry about the consumerist attitudes we have cultivated here in the USA - why does it always seem to be about things instead of about who we are?

I only have one life. It is mine to waste or use productively - and it is up to me to define both terms for myself. I mean, really, who cares how I spend my time? So long as I am not hurting anyone else, what does it matter if I clean the toilet today or tomorrow? Deadlines are artificial and generally not relevant to anything except perhaps an orderly mind. Saturday is house-cleaning day because it has always been house-cleaning day. But the world won't end - I won't end - if I don't vacuum every Saturday.

The things outside of me - my car, my house, my possessions - will remain when I am gone. They may eventually corrode and turn to dust, too, but the cup from which I drink my tea will be here long after I am gone.

When I move on to the next world, whatever that may be, I will take me with me the things in my head. My love, my thoughts, my hopes and dreams - these will go with me into that vast unknown. So too will any knowledge I have gained, the memories of my life, and the feelings I harbor. So to me it makes sense, then, to cultivate these things, not the external. For the external items will always be - but not those inner workings. They are mine, they are me, they are precious.

I think for this year a focus on the inner workings of me, this one, wild and precious life, might be in order. Maybe it is time to answer that question: what is the meaning of it all?

1 comment:

  1. That is one of my favorite quotes from Mary Oliver. The speaker at my college orientation used it in her speech. I have thought of it on and off ever since. I try to remind myself that a year from now, I won't care whether or not I cleaned the kitchen counter today--but if I do something truly memorable, I'll always carry that with me. As you said, to the grave. Best wishes on your wild and precious journey.

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