Summer Time, The Living Is Easy
All hail the power of summer-- its slowness, the way it desires to wake up lazily, how malleable each hour seems to be. Though, for most people, whose memories of such sweet summers have long since melted into nostalgia, summer is just a hotter version of every other season. There is just as much work to do. In Texas, the summer heat forces us to dash to the time clock more quickly, just to make the trip quicker from one AC to another. In Michigan, it means that road crews can fix the ice-damaged roadways, build bridges, and construct whatever else the six months of winter prohibited. Someday the workforce might engulf me and steal away my summertime, but now I am trying to realize how good I have it.
I have two weeks (last week and this one) free from employment, roommates, Dallas traffic, the Southern sun. As for the recent scandal in my apartment, I was still relatively free to not live in the midst of it. I am stress-free, and have recently taken up yoga. Still, I've let myself get bored one minute, and lazy the next.
Thoreau said, "As if you could kill time without injuring eternity." A few years ago my inspiring friends and I drank up the words of Thoreau-- a life giving potion awakening us from our adolescent slumber. All my life I treated the idea of eternity like a family member-- someone I spent so much time with and knew familiarly. But, also like a family member, I actually knew so little about it, and took it for granted.
When you're a Christian and have been promised eternity ever since promises held any weight with you, death seems like a mere pause between now and forever. Everything moves slowly, like a perpetual childhood summer. One has time to wait for months, and even years, to see what exactly "God wants" for you. One pretends death can be written off by saying, "Honey, just stick me in any plywood box and plant me in the back," as I've heard my step-dad say in so few words. Time means nothing when you never consider running out of it.
And then, ever so suddenly, death crept up on me, and reminded me of its realness. Almont is a small town. One could walk anyplace in town within minutes. It is enjoyable. A few days ago I just so happened to be driving, which all the time seems to be increasingly wasteful, to the Rite Aid. It is a minute's drive if the stop light catches me.
The windows were down. I just passed for the third time a couple girls walking down the street, wearing fairy wings. Jason Mraz's acoustic "I'm Yours" was playing for the third time that evening. I thought about my film that was sitting in its plastic cylinder in the passenger seat, and the pictures it might hold. Hopefully the dandelions would be sharp and in focus.
I thought about developing my own film and the joy of controlling that process, and being intimate with my photographs, the thrill of really knowing them from conception to birth. And as automatically as swatting a fly I just said told myself no, I can't do that. I wouldn't be very good. Other people do that who have worked on it for a long time. Why should I expend my efforts on someone else's craft?
Of course I didn't say so many sentences, they are all mushed up into a feeling. You know how one word can mean a really large idea? Eh, those are mostly in other languages. But the basic idea is, that is not for me and what does it matter if I don't learn something I'm interested in? Somehow along the way, my idea for what my life should encompass stopped growing with me. Somewhere inside of me there is still a little girl who cannot play sports, and this idea of being completely talentless, and these elementary boundaries stop me from trying something new that I might really, really like.
There is so much out there that I want to know, and not all of it in books. I could still become proficient at a couple languages, teach my body a new rhythm to dance to, work out an illustration style, bend into impossible yoga positions, hanglide, train a dog, organize a charity, sail Mitch and I's boat (that we do not have, yet).
I will die someday, and it isn't just a pause in between now and the rest of eternity. It is the closing of a chapter, the end of my physical mortality. It is the end of my only chance to enjoy this great, great illusion and fill it with the things that seem the most real. It is the greatest divide, the darkening of all we know empirically.
It is not only people who live without faith that wander through life aimlessly. It is the one of the most common and miserable themes of many, many peoples lives, and it is partly because we are generally not attuned to death as we should be. For many people, especially those who cannot hope on our forever, death is too terrible and mysterious to think about. It is easier just to cover it up than to face its despair. And for others, it is too casual of a thing to hold meaning.
Heidegger recommends the life that is attuned (tensed) to death, like a bow that is taut, aimed at its mark. This does not dismiss the fact that what comes after death will be enjoyed, too. It will be glorious. But it does intensify the this life is the only one we get to live in this way, with all the pleasures of watching time go by, and waking in the morning to meet it again. In it we can witness the miracle of passing from ignorance to brilliance, from apathy to passion, from evil to righteousness, from selfish to loving.