The Bearable Shortness of Being

There is only one thing each person has to discover. There is only one thing that each of us should comprehend deeply, that we should ‘get’ or ‘catch’. The one thing that will change everything else is if you understand how short life is. Grasping how short my time on earth is will change everything.

Our concept and expectation of time is instinctively on auto-pilot, but seldom articulated. We adapt our behaviour automatically based on our expectation of time. If you go to an exotic island on a luxury boat and you know you have two days to spend on the island, you will behave in a completely different way than you would have if you shipwrecked on the island and expected to be stuck there for 30 years. We behave differently when we know our ride is waiting. And despite our contradictory expectation of indefiniteness – our ride is in fact waiting.

Once we realise how quickly we grow up, how soon we leave behind the cuteness of being a toddler, how quickly the uncertainty and arrogance of a teenager passes by, how fleeting those students years are, how fast the next generation grows up and how quickly our bodies remind us that we are set on a very particular path of outward decay; then we realise that our journey on this planet is shorter than we thought. Years fly by. We realise all of this when we look back and realise that time is running out and we never realised the crazy ambitions and dreams of our youth.

Every day is followed by night and each sign of life is mysteriously intertwined with pending death. This can be depressing, ugly and sad, or it can just be what it is. Once we know how short our time in these bodies are, we can let go of some of our vanity. Once we realise how short our stay on this planet is we realise that we can own nothing and that everything is gifts. A gift not given, but loaned. Once you get to borrow something for a short time, you learn to hold it in the correct way, to look at it in the right way. People, experiences, nature, places, art, music, achievements, or whatever- these are all temporal gifts that will come and go.

It seems our ‘natural’, perhaps animal instinct is to act as if time is endless. We gather and build and hold onto things as if we will live for 2000 years. We hold onto people as if they will live forever. We cling to ideas as if the changing of minds and truths threaten our very being. We are mostly in denial of how fast life is flying by. Why? Maybe because if we realise the loss of what has gone, if we articulate the failures of wasted years it will place us in front of such a clear mirror that we would be forced to re-evaluate our ideas, our world views, our patterns our behaviour and our choices. We subconsciously think that if we sneak along in mediocrity nobody will notice- not even ourselves.

But we know.

We get glimpses.

We need brave and courageous friends to help us fight for the rays of life that we are so so accustomed to avoid.

Time is ticking… We are getting old. Each day a hundred ungrasped opportunities pass away.

Let us not get trapped in cycles of desperate pettiness. Let us not get addicted to pathetic patterns of  perverted self-love.

Life is short.

We get one chance and we’ve lost half of that already…






I have an urgent obligation to search out and appreciate every drop of beauty, to juxtapose evil and sadness with beauty and goodness so the latter can be illuminated even in the presence of the former.