Thursday, May 03, 2007

memento mori

Today, while I gave the final exam to my Theory 4 students, a party was happening just outside the door. It was a bittersweet party as a farewell to sole music faculty peer. When I’d got my students started on the exam, I escaped the room, sneaked through the maze of well-wishers and holed up in my office to try to tie up some loose ends of end of semester stuff. The party, however, expanded into my office like suds from an overflowing washing machine as students, stuck their heads in to say hi.
Finally, I made my way out to join in the “official” wordsmithing speeches. After I’d said my heartfelt piece, a student came up to me and asked what was my favorite passage in the Bible. I jokingly snatched at a few out-of-context thoughts, but he didn’t think it was funny. He was serious. So I pacified him with one that means a lot to me.
He told me he’d been watching “Dead Poets Society” for class, and that he’d been thinking about the concept of seizing the day. How does one go about it? He said that he’d been trying to think of bible verses that spoke to this idea but was coming up void. Well I spouted off about a dozen, before he interrupted me and a huge smile came across his face. “Wow, I hadn’t thought about how that is saying the same thing,” and, “wow, that is connected.” Once again, I thought about how narrowly and compartmentally we read the scriptures.
handful of life
When I was driving home this evening I was thinking about this, and about how it was related to Allison’s blog from earlier this week. A stream of consciousness began. Allison was writing about busyness, and being overwhelmed. She wrote of noticing my approach to the chaos that has reached record proportions this spring. I’ve deliberately slowed down. I’ve quit blogging for the past several weeks, perhaps I’ve stopped trying to interpret the chaos that I live in. Instead, I’ve picked up the camera and merely passed on images of what I’m seeing. Perhaps equivalent to recording a foreign language and playing it back as it is. I don’t know. But I’ve photographed things instead of using words. I’ve attempted to freeze beautiful moments forever, to expose ugliness. To make people look up, to look closer, deeper, peer past the surface. Contemplate the hidden. Take a deep breath. This moment will never come again.
I’d talked with the student about that just an hour earlier. We are called to the moment. But we live in the past and the future. The things we can’t change and the things we know nothing about. Who, worrying about what’s past can go back and make anything different than it was? Who, by worrying about the future can add a single moment to his life?
Life is a vapor, a wisp. It quickly dissipates and vanishes. It is sand through our fingers, soap bubbles blown and burst. forever youngAll we have is now, we are promised nothing else.

So I thought about my intentional slowing. My photos. I thought about my ride under the full flower moon the other night. I thought about shooting pictures at 65 mph on my bike. That had raised some eyebrows. “You’d better be careful!”
But I was careful. I was being safe. Just as I was being on my drive home today, snugly buckled in, relaxing behind the airbag and the side curtains. I was being alert when the 18-wheel chemical tanker immediately in front of me blew his back tire and shredded rubber and steel belt shrapnel pelted my windshield and three lanes of traffic all around me punched the breaks. The truck driver was being careful too.
But we’re only promised now. And we weren’t even promised now five minutes ago. Each moment is a gift, undeserved and unearned. This evening has been an unpromised, free gift. I’m grabbing each moment. I’ll try to take a picture for you.

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