When I was 19 years old, I was in love for the first time, in Paris for the first time, and seeing the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral for the first time. It doesn’t get much better than that. It was one of the high points of my life.
It didn’t take long to figure out that the love wasn’t going to last, but, as they say, I’d always have Paris. Some things you just assume will last forever. Some things, you think, will be as permanent as Mount Everest.
Watching Notre Dame burn broke my heart. That spire crashing down felt like it went right through me. Yes, they’ll rebuild, but it will never again be “my” Notre Dame. That’s gone.
We tend to forget that the things made by man are very impermanent. If a stretch of interstate highway was abandoned for 10 years, it would be so reclaimed by weeds and trees that it would be unrecognizable. Whole cities have disappeared with the passage of time. Buildings and bridges collapse. Towns burn. Tumbleweeds roll down what used to be main streets. Waters rise, winds blow, sand dunes encroach.
Most of us try not to think about it. It is hard, living in that state of awareness. Impermanence is scary. It reminds us of our own mortality. If Notre Dame can burn after having stood for about 800 years, then my fragile little body is toast.
But in many ways, that impermanence is actually a gift. While Notre Dame propped up my 19 year old’s sense of beauty and romance, I went on to have many other amazing experiences, and I’m sure that more are in the offing. Knowing that all these things are merely blips on the radar of the universe makes me appreciate them even more. What I am experiencing right here, right now, will be gone in a moment.
What a gift that I got to collect these memories, if even for just a cosmic second, even if they aren’t made of mountains, and will someday be reduced to dust.
Don’t forget to appreciate the now, dear reader. In the overall scheme of things, it’s really all that we have.
According to Psychology Today, “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
I have to admit that I suck at this. I don’t even have the patience to attempt meditation. I’m too busy planning and organizing and making contingencies for anticipated disaster. I suppose this comes from a lifetime of being the only one in my boat. If I don’t steer this thing, who will?
But every once in a while, through no effort of my own, I get a brief, shining moment of mindfulness. I’ll look about me and realize that this moment, right now, is perfect in every way, even if there are flaws. The light glinting off the water, the tangy bite of citrus, the people I’m with… all somehow combine to make me realize that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on earth.
Everything seems to fall into place in times like these. I’m convinced that it’s these moments that will flash before my eyes when I celebrate my life on my way to the next state of being. Whatever that may be.
Anyone who regularly practices mindfulness is a fortunate person indeed. I’m working on it. I’ll probably never achieve perfection in this realm. But even having just a few seconds of it now and again in a lifetime is a precious gift.