We’ve been traveling widely again and will spare you the itinerary, save that we are now on an island that rims the Caribbean Sea. We’ve come to say our goodbyes to our grandfather, who is on his deathbed.
Thoughts, thoughts… absurd thoughts, perch on our shoulders. It is hard to organize how we feel.
Seeing him thus brings home the absurd in a tangible way. We think about all the moments in a life, the things one might change, the worries one might shed, if – if – one truly believed the deathbed scene was a fate unavoidable.
As much as it seems obvious, and as much as people would admit that they will die someday, their actions betray them. If you truly and deeply knew it would end, would you worry as you do? Would you behave as you do today?
It’s easy to think back on a life for moments you thought were greatly important, only to realize how trivial they were years later. A pitch swung on and missed that ended a game seemed a big deal at the time and is now hardly remembered. A pot roast burned. A train missed. A favorite shirt ruined. A watch lost. Upsetting at the time, but clearly trivial now…
It’s harder to think back on a life and realize that all moments were equally unimportant. This is the absurd view – and it does not come naturally.
We use this line of thinking often however, questioning ourselves in the present as if we were thinking back on this moment in the future. If we are upset that the floor is so dirty or the kitchen a mess, we think of the deathbed scene. We doubt we will say then, “Gee, we wish we had washed the floor and cleaned the kitchen on that Sunday afternoon back in oh-ten.”
In fact, we doubt we will remember much of what’s passed. Disappointments, anger, envy – all seem to dissolve in time, like an antacid pill in water. Knowing this is helpful in maintain one’s sense of equanimity in the present.
We find it helpful when we are irritated – or annoyed or worried or whatever – to stop and ask ourselves why, and to really try to pinpoint exactly what burr is under our saddle. Is it something specific hanging over our heads that we must do? Is it something else?
Whatever it is, we identify it. Or if there is more than one item, then we list them in our heads. And with each one we trivialize it – no matter how important it might seem! We tell ourselves it isn’t important and it doesn’t matter. We recall the deathbed scene.
Then, we feel better almost immediately. It works for us. Try it and see. It may work for you, too. It helps us see the world in a more absurd light – and restores that sense of equanimity.
To paraphrase some old Scotch proverb – better to enjoy our living moments, for we are a long time dead!