By Chuck Gallozzi
Life was a funny thing that happened to me on the way to the grave – Quentin Crisp
Believe it or not, my life is based on a true story. Come to think of it, so is yours. And so was Quentin Crisp's. One of the lines he left with us before his death at age 90 was, "Life was a funny thing that happened to me on the way to the grave." When we can joke about life, it shows we put it in proper perspective. That is, we take it lightly. Meaning, we don't take ourselves too seriously. Life is grand, but we're just a small part of it. We're important, mind you, but replaceable. To lead a balanced life, we don't want to exaggerate our significance.
Taking life lightly doesn't mean living without passion. On the contrary, we want to burn brightly in the wind, before it blows us out. We want to embrace life and thank it for the opportunity to love, work, and play. We want to dive in and plunge into its depths. Everyone dies, but not everyone lives, and we refuse to join those who merely exist. To be or not to be is not the question. To live or not to live; that is the question.
We embrace life by living courageously. Since we're not going to get out of it alive, why hold back? We need to attack it with boldness. The only thing we need to fear is living too cautiously. Ironically, life is most exciting when we love someone or some cause more than our life.
As a young man, Tommy, was dying to graduate high school and go off to college. Then he was dying to graduate college and start working. Next, he was dying to get married and settle down. No sooner than he did so, he was dying to get a house. Then, dying to pay off the mortgage. Finally, dying to retire. Now, an old man, Tommy is just dying. It seems that all his life he was just chasing after a dream. Although he was always dying to do many things, the thought never occurred to him to be dying to live. Life isn't about chasing the future; it's about experiencing the present. It's about relishing this moment. Life is the present. That's why we call it a gift.
Life is the sound of a frog splashing into a pond. It is a blinding flash of lightning that sparkles in the eyes of an animal. It is the spring mist that silently hides pastel blossoms. Those who dwell in the beauty and mystery of life are never lonely. They know life is also the aroma of the soft grass we lie on while absorbing the warm rays of a summer day. It is also the taste of blackberries just plucked from a bush. It is all these and a great deal more. For it is a boundless tapestry that we observe, weave, and experience. Life is a feature film, projected one frame at a time, and we are the director, main actor, and audience member.
It is not death that we need to fear, but an inadequate life. Why? Because life is not lost when we die. It is lost while we live. It is lost in opportunities that we allow to slip through our fingers. In each moment of inaction, we die bit by bit. When we waste time, we kill it. When we kill time, we murder life. If life is marching by, shouldn't we be joining in? After all, one-third of our life is spent sleeping and another third in growing up and growing old. How much is left to live? We are Mayflies. Our lives are fleeting; we're here a single day.
Obviously, the time to start living is now. But the choice is ours. Either we let our lives slip away by not doing what we want to, or we get up and join the parade. Yes, life is brief, but don't despair; you still have 100% of the rest of your life left. We didn't choose where and when we would be born, nor can we choose where, when, and how we will die. But we can choose whether we live or exist. And if we choose to live, we can decide how we wish to live.
Life expresses itself in action. It is not, "I think and therefore I am," but "I act and therefore I live." This assumes our actions are done with awareness. Once we accept that life is not a dress rehearsal - we have only one shot at it - we will be more inclined to act. How, then, should we act? Viktor E. Frankl offers one suggestion, "Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time."
We have to be willing to accept what life gives us. But we don't have to take it and leave it; we can take it and change it. Isn't that why we're here? To make the world a better place? As Mark Twain said, "Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." Let's not take life for granted, but appreciate each moment. After all, it doesn't matter how much we have; it only matters how much we appreciate what we have. Also, appreciate others. For when we appreciate their great deeds, we magically share in their goodness.
To enjoy life to the fullest, we need to know where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there. True, the road may be tough. So, you may be tempted to say, "Life is hard." If you do, ask yourself, "Hard compared to what?" Besides, even if we're not where we want to be, as long as we are advancing toward our goal, we can enjoy the present moment. Life doesn't happen to us, it happens from us because we create it. We can avoid stumbling through life by focusing on growing through life.
We already know life is expressed by action, but the crown of action is love. Kahlil Gibran explains, "Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit." Victor Hugo's explanation is equally valid, "Life is a flower of which love is the honey." What is the message of love? Simply this, the major purpose of our life is the happiness and joy it brings to others. May you live all the days of your life!