I once lived (or tried to) in ongoing disregard of the fact of radical uncertainty, of brevity. Every single thing being brief, in flux, each apparently substantial thing falling apart even as it was establishing itself.
Not to mention death being relentlessly a day closer than the day before.
I couldn’t stand to know all of this, for an agony of 50 years. A private little agony, like a slow drip of something caustic into the otherwise warm and sweet blood. I always secretly knew things could go wrong, fall apart at any moment. We do know this.
Why does it turn out to be weirdly peace-inducing to finally turn toward that hidden knowing and face it? To make friends with uncertainty and brevity, take it into one’s arms and waltz with it?
It’s because something in us feels deeply sane when we stop fighting with the truth. When we cease the fruitless effort to pretend something is otherwise. Enormous energy is freed up. Energy and love and creativity are able at last to flower.
The agony I felt was not because of the fact of brevity and uncertainty; it was because I fought relaxing into that truth. I would never have dreamed the source of the pain was where it turned out to be: not in the difficult truth, but in my struggle to resist it.
What are we left with when we give up that struggle? When we stop wishing something would last? When we stop looking to the future to fill the empty hole? We stop lying to ourselves, letting go of the consoling story about getting to a thing later. And the story about how something in the future will make things better. So we stop missing this moment.
We don’t have later. We have now.
We don’t have later. We have now. And it is dying. When that deeply registers, life has just begun in earnest.
And it is dying. Constantly.
When that deeply registers, life has just begun in earnest.
What are we left with when we grow at last truly comfortable with brevity, when it becomes established in the bones that this is all there is, or ever will be? A profound savoring of the present moment becomes the norm. Because that’s all there is to life: now. Attention is heightened. We stop living in our heads, where time seems to be real. The wasting of life unwinds, along with the squandering of attention and other precious resources on things we once valued because they looked like means to some important end.
(How many of those “ends” never came, nor ever would?)
The ongoing presence of uncertainty as a dancing companion is strangely absent of anxiety or grasping.
I feel more radically alive than I ever did when I was constantly starved for a future, when the prospect of an ending made me rigid with fear. The irony of it: the dread of time running out made me unable to live! It made my heart so afraid of a mortal wound, something it would not be able to bear (I believed), that my poor heart declined to open all the way to boundlessness. The fear of unbearable pain kept that muscle in a perpetual cramp.
Once the heart is open all the way, nothing can feel threatening. Even though you know very well terrible things will happen. Even though your mind understands that each day brings you a day closer to death. There is this radical softness, the willingness to allow whatever is. Whatever defense shields were once in place have been carried away on the wind that destroyed the sense of a self. Each moment of life — regardless of its content — is inexpressibly sweet. It’s not about what happens “in” life: the cherished thing is life itself. Finally, this is known.Jan Frazier