Today is a Good Day
Article ID: 8308
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,800
Times Read: 6,811
Author: RuneWolf [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: March 7th. 2004
Times Viewed: 6,811
"Today is a good day to die..."
I'm not sure where and when I first came across that phrase. As long as I can remember, it has been attributed to the warrior ethos of First Nations people. But we hear echoes of it in almost all warrior (as opposed to simply militaristic) cultures.
When I was a young lad, hot-headed and looking for a fight, I thought this meant that I was the "baddest mutha" in the valley, and that if I had to die, I was going down fighting while taking as many of "Them" with me as I could. The stereotypical (in the worst sense of that word) Viking, samurai, knight, brave, etc. It was not until many decades - and many rough patches in the road of life - later that I realized how wrong I was. What this really meant was that I was at peace with myself, my kith and kin, my Gods and the rest of the world, and that if I had to die today, I was okay with that. Nothing was left undone, nothing left unsaid, no one left un-hugged or un-kissed. To me, that is sometimes much harder than making sure that my gun is loaded and my knife is sharpened. It's a lot easier to grab a muffin and run out of the house in the morning than to take the time to stop and tell my wife that I love her.
It has been said, by Castaneda or Billy Jack or some other hero - real or imagined - that only when Death is our constant companion can we truly live. Boy, there was a time when that kind of thinking really creeped me out; again because I thought it meant that I had to be thinking about Big D. all the time. Walking around with this huge, black-cloaked, scythe-carrying, bony-assed specter hanging out in my peripheral vision at all hours. It has taken some time for me to realize that it simply means that, in acknowledging that we could, literally, go at any moment, we are more likely to appreciate, and therefore not squander, the time that we do have. Dan Millman addressed this directly in his famous saying: "There are no ordinary moments." As dull, boring, stressful, unpleasant, annoying and obnoxious as this moment of my workaday world may seem to be, if I knew it was my last moment in this life, it would be a jewel of incredible value. So why can't it be that jewel, even if it isn't my last moment?
We are often asked - by one another, by our "small voice," by the media - what we would do if we knew we only had X amount of time to live? And our fancies take flight, ranging from the extremes of life-savings-eradicating global circumnavigations to the stark reality of simply caving in under the horrible certainty and curling up in a corner somewhere to weep. Mine usually fall somewhere in between, but they are marked by one inescapable similarity: They have nothing to do with the way I live my day-to-day life right now.
I have a colleague who is losing the battle against a terminal illness. That person has been offered virtually unlimited time off at full salary to do whatever that person wants in the time left. To my utter amazement - and frank horror - that person shows up every day to re-engage with the frustration of the normal work day.
I don't know whether to show awe or pity. But then, it's really not my place to show either - it's really none of my damn business.
Right now, I feel I don't know this person well enough to talk to them about what is going on and why they insist on returning to the daily grind every morning, when I, personally, would be about the business of finding other things to do in my last days. In some ways, I think I am afraid to hear what this person might have to say. Could it possibly be that, in the worst possible situation that I can personally imagine, this individual finds that there is, in fact, no need to do anything outwardly different, that in simply continuing to live life as life presents itself, is all that one can do - all that one really needs to do - in the face of Death? Could it possibly be that all this running about like Ben Gazzara* is really our way of denying the inevitable, of turning away from Death, rather than looking Her in the face? Could it possibly be that the most joyous celebration of our last days could be to simply rise each morning and get on with the ankle-biting details just like we have always done, but perhaps with a bit more gratitude for simply the present moment, and the chance to enter deeply into the laughter and tears of another mundane day?
One thing is certain: If I don't overcome my fear and talk to this person, I will probably never find out. Can I find it within myself to approach this person as just another human being and not a pariah, a leper, an oddity in the sideshow of my life that gives me the willies when I think too hard about the situation? Can I simply offer a greeting, a kind word, a smile, and expect nothing particular in return?
In my personal spiritual practice, I profess the belief that the manifest world is holy, a place every bit as sacred as the Realm of the Gods. I do not seek to transcend or escape this world or this life, but rather to enter more deeply into them, for there dwell the True Mysteries. That's easy to do when life is flowing along and all is well. It is a bit more difficult when things are rough and getting rougher. But the reality is that the only thing I have is this moment in which to live, that the future is not yet written, and I cannot un-write the past. I can regret yesterday and worry about tomorrow, and in so doing fritter away today, but is that how I really want to live? Is that really living, or is it simply existing?
The greatest tool I have for embracing the holiness of this world and my life in it is living fully in the moment. One of the greatest - if not the greatest - tool I have for doing that is realizing that, as unlikely as I may think it is, my next heartbeat could be my last. Even if I am in perfect health, the momentary inattention of a fellow driver could put an abrupt end to my current incarnation. So every moment is indeed precious, and I should savor each one, in turn, giving it my full attention with no thought to the one that came before or the one that may come after. And in the Eternal Now, I have to be sure that I kiss my wife and pat my dog and try to smile at the irritating stranger, for those may well be my last acts in this life.
A particular friend of mine and I use each other as sounding-boards, venting our spleens at the unfairness of it all and talking about how we want to be better people and how we should go about that endeavor. In most of these conversations, we inevitably reach a point where the listener has to bring the talker back to reality. We often do that by quoting Mr. Millman at each other:
Q: Where are you?
A: Right here.
Q: What time is it?
A: Right now.
There is nowhere and nowhen else.
Location: Reston, Virginia
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