This life is so fleeting—so absolutely transient and ephemeral—that it is hard to believe.
It is tremendously difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that none of this is going to last, that everyone we will ever care about will pass, and everything we ever do will be washed away by the vast ocean of infinity.
Bleak start, eh? Wait, stay with me.
I say this because we are absolutely habituated to living in snippets of time, so accustomed to believing our problems are of the utmost importance and that our current circumstances are all-pervasive and entirely paramount.
This greatly limits our capacity to truly enjoy this life and suck the marrow out of our experience on this beautiful planet.
It is important to recognize the transitory nature of existence if we desire to get the most out of being human. We must truly acknowledge the inevitably of our own demise, as it implores us to live in the present and derive as much joy and beauty from this life as possible.
Why beat around the existential bush? Why live in a box? Why choose safety and stability when there are no such things to begin with?
The box will just keep getting smaller and smaller if we refuse to live our greatest potential and manifest our truest, most authentic selves.
I suppose the question would then be: How do we get the most out of being human? How might we proceed through our lives with power and poise; how do we move through the world with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction?
Of course, I can only speak from the vantage point of my own experience; through my dealings with a debilitating chronic illness over the past few years, I have come to understand that it is only in aligning ourselves with the immediacy of felt perception, the here and now, that we may get the most out of being human. This is how we can move through life with the deepest sense of fulfillment as possible.
My life has been taken away by this illness. I may never be able to take a long hike or have a night on the town again for the rest of my life, and as painful as that is to say I can still remain with a deep feeling of dignity and, dare I say, even happiness.
I enjoy my life, which is almost a weird thing for me to say considering what my life has been. I never would’ve thought I’d be able to say that when I first got sick, and it fills me with zest and exaltation to be able to say that with full confidence.
In became apparent to me through contending with the severity of my symptoms that this body was impermanent and highly fragile, and this recognition in itself became a spiritual practice.
I had to forgo my body, in a sense, which is to say I was forced to let go of my attachment to the material world. I was implored to observe my existence with total objectivity, as a kind of passive observer rather than an active participant invested in each ebb and every flow of space and time.
Oddly enough, with this comes a subtle emanation of joy, an inner sense of serenity and gentle elation. When we alleviate ourselves of our pathological investment in the world of form or the fluctuation of objects, inner and outer, then we feel surprisingly nice. Moreover we become much more capable of dealing with the problems in our lives with intelligence and poise because we see with total clarity that they are not all-important. They don’t matter that much.
That’s right. I said it. Our problems don’t matter, certainly not in the context of, uuuh…infinity?
Anyhow, I don’t mean to be rude, rather I mean to aptly convey what it actually means to be human. To exist on a giant water marble that is floating through eternity with no apparent cause. For if we truly acknowledge the beautiful absurdity of this life, then we can immerse ourselves in the stark immediacy and sharpness of our own experience.
The barrier between subject and object is dissolved, and we come to move through life in accordance with the innate freshness and novelty embedded in the very fabric of existence itself.
I hope that doesn’t sound too outlandish, for the fact of the matter is that for me it could not be more practical.
It is not an intellectual understanding, not something I’ve come upon reading books or listening to lectures. Rather it is a deep-seated knowing. An experiential grasping of the fact itself. It is an acknowledgement of that which is beyond knowledge, beyond thought, beyond the reach of our silly monkey brains, and surely this acknowledgment is an intrinsically transcendent act.
Simply to recognize that we don’t actually know what’s going on here is to take a step toward embracing the exquisite mystery of life.
Here’s a practice I’ve been cultivating:
Whenever I start to feel stressed, as though the invisible pressures of life are coming to take their toll, I remind myself that this is the only moment that will ever truly exist. Reality is contained in the here and now, nowhere else. I am essentially attempting to let die everything that ever was and everything that ever will be, all of my past memories as well as all of my future hopes, and in that I am faced with the immediacy and actuality of the present moment itself.
It seems to me that unhealthy stress is induced by the illusion that there is something more than what simply is, some pressing issue that must be dealt with above all else. To be free of this illusion is to get the most out of being human, to live in accordance with the fullness of one’s being.
I’m not a particularly religious person, but I thought this verse might further depict this quality of being:
“That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” ~ Ephesians 3:16-19
Getting the most out of being human implies being free of all attachment, all fear, and all illusion. It is only here that we might come upon our highest selves.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Editor: Danielle Beutell