An elderly man was once asked what he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. His reply is worth meditating:
“If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of few things I would take seriously.
“I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers and watch more sunsets. I would do more walking and looking. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
“You see, I am one of those people who live prophylactically and sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moment and if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
“I have been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, an aspirin and a parachute.
“If I had it to do over again, I would go places, do things and travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would play hooky more. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I’d pick more daisies” (Brother Jeremiah).
Had these words been written by a young person, they would not have the same power. There’s something within youth that, more naturally, seizes the moment, that takes ice cream over beans, that prefers to travel lightly and carelessly, and that excuses conscience so that playing hooky is a temptation more readily succumbed to.
Unfortunately, much of that spirit dies as we take on more responsibility in life, as the burdens of duty weigh us down and as the pressures of making a living excessively preoccupy us. Slowly we change and eventually we end up so taken with the business of making a living that we rarely get around to simply living.
Eventually too we end up overly timid about life, overly protected from it, looking at it and analyzing it rather than actually living it. Eventually we end up with too many aspirins, hot water bottles, gargles and raincoats, wearing plastic shoes before the burning bush.
Sadly, I suspect that most of us will have very similar sentiments to Brother Jeremiah when we look back on our lives. Only after it’s too late will we realize how little we got around to actually living.
Thoughts such as these have crossed my mind this springtime, when the trees are in blossom, the air is fertile and I am sterile, preoccupied with work and duty.
I remember as a graduate student, living in San Francisco, walking down a street on Easter Sunday and being struck by a sign which hung around the neck of a blind beggar which read: It is springtime and I am blind.
This springtime, for lots of reasons, I’ve been blind, to spring and to too many other things that I’ve been put on this earth for.
A recently deceased colleague of mine, who was a fine poet and a man of extraordinary sensitivity, used to tell us how important it was to pay attention to the weather:
Let’s go back to the weather.
Most days you don’t notice there is an
until you fall into love, and / or sin,
and then you see the clouds and stare holes
looking for Christ
when He’s really at your shoulder looking for
and in such great shape, you’d never believe
what he’s been through
Then before you know it happened, its July
again or August
and you have time to do what you should
have been doing all
sitting or walking on the grass in bare feet
For God’s sake it doesn’t matter how you begin
though if I had my choice, I’d do it all over
Then you’re all petals once more, and tendrils
till the storm breaks
And the biggest piece goes to heaven,
and to hell with the weather.
– Harry Hellman, omi, Caprice
It’s not good to be blind to the weather or to spring!