Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Fleeting Moment

The sun was sinking, fat, slow, and red—engorged with blood and swollen as a tick. It disappeared into the gray sky behind the gray hills on the gray horizon. Later, the moon came out, perfectly round and bright, with wispy purple clouds passing in front of it in a haze. All so beautiful, and I stayed outside to appreciate it for as long as I could stand the cold. I wish I could have taken a picture, but it wouldn’t have turned out, and even if it had, it wouldn’t have done the reality justice. I wish I could paint well enough to portray the majesty of the moment, but I can’t. And I wish I could remember scenes like that forever, but as soon as I turn away, I forget. Nothing lasts. Impermanence, ironically, perseveres.

But living in the moment may be what it’s all about. You really can’t take it with you, and that’s what makes the moment so valuable. Enjoy it while you can. Savor it.

The color-patches of vision part, shift, and reform as I move through space in time. The present is the object of vision, and what I see before me at any given second is a full field of color-patches scattered just so. The configuration will never be repeated. Living is moving; time is a live creek bearing changing lights. As I move, or as the world moves around me, the fullness of what I see shatters. The second of shattering is an augenblick, a particular configuration, a slant of light shot in the open eye. Goethe's Faust risks all if he should cry to the moment, the augenblick, "Verweile doch!" "Last forever!" Who hasn't prayed that prayer? But the augenblick isn't going to verweile. You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying; it is a canvas, nevertheless.
--Annie Dillard

Sometimes I’m overcome by something so beautiful it takes my breath away. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, I think I know what the Romantics were talking about. Is that it? Am I, like a handful of others in my generation, a hopeless romantic?

I hear that phrase tossed around a lot. “Hopeless romantic.” Seems that’s what everyone claims to be these days; it’s an epidemic, and I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past. But I’m not a hopeless romantic. On the contrary—I’m a hopeful romantic.

Or, rather, I’d like to be. Pessimism is tiring and unfulfilling. I wish I could look toward the future and say, “Ya know, there’s something out there for me. Infinite possibilities. I’m gonna live and love and make my way and do great things.”

Well, I’m working on having a mindset like that, just like I’m working on becoming a good person. It’s a long road, and I’ve just started on the journey. That’s all right. I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. We all do. We've got to.

And so for the time being, I’ll tip my hat to the transient present and raise my glass to the promise of the future.

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