“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
~ Michael Altshuler
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There are tangible physiological reasons why the years seem to roll by faster as we get older but everyone – regardless of their age – can agree that life has accelerated dramatically in the 21st Century. So, just where are we going?
A renowned personal development teacher likes to say that humans have two primary needs: certainty and uncertainty. These two co-exist in a paradox that we live with from the day we’re miraculously born until the day we die into the mystery beyond this life. Certainty – we’re here; uncertainty – we don’t know where we’re going.
Carpe diem translates as “seize the day” and is often used as advice for being present and enjoying ourselves right now. The phrase also champions an attitude of personal ownership. When we “seize the day” we own it, we declare our commitment to make the most of things. We’re the pilot, not a passenger.
Those with hedonistic tendencies might interpret this to mean “Go for it!” as in that immortal wisdom from the film “Wayne’s World: “Party on dude.” Those of us more spiritually inclined might prefer what Christ said: “For this reason came I to this hour.”
There’s a profound difference between accepting things the way they are and seizing the day in order to enjoy ourselves, vs expressing our full selves in the moment to moment fulfilment of our destiny.
Some say that fate is the cards we’re dealt while destiny is how we play our cards. It’s beyond argument that some of us are born to hardship while others enjoy comfort. We’re rich, we’re poor, we’re sick, we’re healthy, we’re educated, we’re ignorant… But, regardless of our differences, we all have the same moment to deal with. The content will be unique but the real difference is what we do with it.
We arrive with our fate. The game of life begins and we start to play our cards. Time flies, the days flow into years, and we are finally delivered to this moment of contemplation right now – you reading and me writing – and this powerful question: “Why am I really here?”
Regardless of what the calendar says, it’s the same moment. Time is flying and we’re flying with it right now, high above the detailed landscape of our lives. That’s because we’ve chosen these moments for thoughtful contemplation. We’ve excused ourselves from the busyness of our lives to write and to read, in order to expand our awareness of what this thing called life is and what exactly we might do with it.
Millions of lives have been dedicated to the pursuit of this understanding. Millions of volumes have been written. Scores of philosophies and religions have been created. Ironically, with every belief, principle, and tradition, the question gathers more complexity, obscuring a simple, enduring truth.
Occam’s Razor is a well-known philosophical principle that advocates for the simplest explanation. For instance: “Two trees have fallen down during a windy night. Think about these two possible explanations: 1. The wind has blown them down. 2. Two meteorites have each taken one tree down and, after striking the trees, hit each other removing any trace of themselves.” 1
Think about these possible explanations for our lives: 1. We’re meant to be here, to enjoy ourselves, to learn and evolve, and to share our unique gifts. 2. We’ve had many lifetimes and will keep returning until we behave perfectly. This life is a punishment; we’re here to atone for our sins and, if we do, we’ll be excused from further incarnations and ascend to a heaven of mythical beauty and glory. If not, we’ll go to hell and burn forever. 3. Life is meaningless, we are just a weird, isolated accident (with 37 trillions cells in our bodies, somehow co-existing in relative harmony), and it will never happen again.
The bad news? There can never be an adequate theoretical answer to that question, not one that everyone would ever agree to. The good news? Life is this experience right now, beyond concepts, and we can seize this day fully if we choose to and enjoy discovering what the truth of these deep mysteries turns out to be. We can be certain that we are here, alive in this moment. We can be simultaneously uncertain of what comes next, especially at the conclusion of this life. That sounds like an adventure, one we might call “being alive!”